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…

Dinnsdorf 1813 – The Glorious Landwehr

One of the highlights of my week is gathering around my gaming table on a Friday evening and moving troops on the table. Sometimes well intentioned plans for an historical refight don’t eventuate but that’s when a more general points based game is ideal. The Volley & Bayonet “Road to Glory” scenario system is excellent as it creates a scenario with little preparation. Last night’s engagement was no exception. Three of us opted for an 1813 encounter between French and Prussians. Both armies had drawn reasonably high deployment cards. From a game perspective this meant that both armies were concentrated and their commanders believed they each had the burden of attack.

The battlefield was reasonably open with several light woods at various points. The dominating features that marked the battlefield could best be described as follows. On the French left a small hill provided a defensible position which protected the French left flank and the French line of communication. This road continued across the between both armies at a gentle angle, from the French left to the Prussian centre left. Two towns sat astride the road and one would feature significantly in the battle. On the Prussian left a dominating ridge lay equally between both armies.

The Prussians deployed two corps, the II Corps making up the centre and left while the III Corps the right. The Prussians generally had a numeric advantage, their divisions being larger and containing troops of various quality. In contrast the French had the advantage in quality, with generally more well drilled troops, but the number of bayonets in each division were smaller.

The battle opened very late in the August afternoon, with only a few hours of daylight remaining, with a general Prussian advance. On the Prussian left von Preussen’s division advanced to secure the dominating heights. As they did so two French infantry divisions countered. An early cavalry encounter between French hussars and Prussian dragoons caused some concern among the French infantry when the French cavalry collapsed. The French infantry however closed ranks and continued to dominate the musket and artillery exchange between the infantry. After two hours von Preussen’s Division fell back towards the town of Laswitz covered by Prussian dragoons.

On the Prussian right Prussian infantry and cavalry of the Bulow’s III Corps launched a series of attacks on French troops holding high ground and extending to a wooded area. The battle here flowed back and forth until von Hessen-Homberg’s division turned the French position by its arrival late in the day. Below, the high ground on the French left with the Prussian attack gaining momentum.

The French divisions on the left were forced back and were only saved by the arrival of two French cavalry divisions just prior to dusk. In this sector Prussian Landwehr cavalry, much maligned due to their lack of drill, launched a glorious and successful charge against the exposed flank of French artillery left unsupported by retreating French infantry.

In the centre the initial Prussian attacks were launched against the small town of Dinnsdorf from which it was hoped the French centre could be unhinged. Two Prussian divisions formed up in a blocking position to the left of Dinnsdorf allowing 36 Prussian guns to bombard the French opposite. Below, Prussian cannon, supported by infantry, engage the French some 800 yards distant.

Simultaneously two Prussian regular brigades Ziethen’s Division were thrown in to an initial attack against the French defenders of Dinnsdorf. Both brigades were thrown back while Blucher, ever in the heat of action was wounded in the encounter.

Soon another attack was ordered and two further brigades, including one landwehr brigade, closed with the bayonet. The landwehr were successful and secured Dinnsdorf, as can be seen below. In the distance the town of Laswitz can be seen, as well as the dominating ridge on the French right.

Of course the French commander could ill afford his army to be split and ordered a series of counterattacks. Over the course of two hours four French brigades were thrown at Dinnsdorf. Each attack was thrown back by the landwehr defenders, one of which is shown below.

As darkness fell and after just five hours of fighting the armies disengaged.

With the loss of Dinnsdorf the French centre was separated from its left and line of communication. Yet both centries remained generally fresh, though bloodied by the fighting for Dinnsdorf. The French left was hard pressed by the Prussians opposite, but Prussian casualties prevented any further exploitation. For the Prussians their own left had collapsed, opening up their own line of communication to attack, though again French casualties prevented any significant exploitation. Despite the tactical draw however the engagement will long be remembered for the brave and glorious actions of the Prussian Landweht, both on foot and mounted, which was truely glorious.

Gaines Mill, 27th June 1862

Gaines Mill is for me a fascinating battle and one that I have been hoping to play for sometime. It has been made even more interesting by my recent visit to the battlefield.

It of course is set against the Peninsula Campaign and the Union advance on Richmond. With Lee taking the field the Confederate forces undertook a series of troop movements and battles that unhinged the Union forces arrayed in front of the Rebel capital. Gaines Mill, fought on the 27th of June found Lee launching the largest Confederate attack of the war, with some 57,000 men in six divisions. In the early afternoon, A.P. Hill ran into strong Union forces deployed along Boatswain’s Creek. This swampy stream, slopes and hasty defences provided a major obstacle.


The resulting attacks resulted an intense battle, the largest of the Seven Days and the only clear-cut Confederate tactical victory of the Peninsula Campaign. While McClellan had already planned to shift his supply base to the James River, his defeat unnerved him and he abandoned his advance on Richmond. This scenario was created by Andy Nicoll and Jim Nevling and can be found here.

For those interested my visit to the battlefield is documented here. For additional reading I would highly recommend Stephen Sears “To the Gates of Richmond” which describes the battle well and places it in the context of the Peninsula Campaign.