A couple of weeks ago I ran a campaign week here at the WHC. The first of three full week events run here each year. Each event run varies in it’s theme, the next for instance will be the 1807 campaign and the third 1813.
This particular camapaign utilises the “House divided” system for movement of formations and the layout of the map. Infantry and heavy cavalry can move 1 box per game turn, while cossack and light cavalry can move 2 boxes. Furthermore a forced march or reaction march may be made if the leading General rolls his initiative or less.
So the game started with the French deployed North to South from Reims to St Mard then down to Sommesous then back east to Montier. The Army of Bohemia deployed south of the Marne and east of these French positions. The Army of Silesia and the North deployed North of the river Marne and south east of the river Meuse.
The opening stages saw all armies looking to converge their strengths, the first battle happening at Brienne where most of the Army of Bohemia had gathered. Napoleon took his Guard and five infantry Corps with four Cavalry Corps and looked to catch the Allies on the hop!
The battle was fought with the French trying to force the river crossing near Brienne, an earlier crossing had allowed a flank manoeuvre by one infantry and one cavalry Corps they were able to hit the Northern flank of the Allied force, driving it in on it’s original positions initially.
Along the river line the French demonstrated strength with their Old Guard and Guard Cavalry fronting a very strong Allied position while waiting on the flank force to do it’s bit and draw troops from the Allied Centre.
Unfortunately the French flank attack lacked the impetus of the juggernaut that was hoped for, the Allies feeding in some reserves and holding up the advance, after a day of fighting the French believed that discretion was the better part of valour and withdrew toward Troyes.
In the North the Army of Silesia was driving west preceded by a large Cossack force. The covering force for the French, two infantry and a cavalry Corps, watched the Prusso/Russian force march past at Suippes toward Reims, they began to fortify Epernay and prepared for the believed assault!
The Army of Bohemia rested for two days and then moved on Troyes, the French falling back before them. Unbeknown to the Allies the majority of the French army had moved to cross the River Marne further to the west and was now marching to engage the Army of Silesia and Blucher. Minor skirmishes continued between both forces with the Army of Bohemia getting some of their Guard and infantry caught and mauled badly at Arcis Sur Aube losing a lot of their Cossacks and four battalions of their infantry.
There followed a good deal of cat and mouse with the French managing to evade the Army of Bohemia, drawing most of their strength and combining it at Epernay. Then a forced march brought them up along the Army of Silesia supply lines at La Croix, Blucher had managed to increase his overall strength dramatically with further Russian divisions strengthening his army, this could be the major battle of the campaign, if the French won it may knock the Army of Silesia out of the war and furthermore weaken Austrian resolve.
The stage was set, the French began their assault at the Battle of La Croix on the Northern and Southern flank, crashing into the Allied troops deployed their, guns roared, renting great wholes in the columns of the Marie Louises and Guardsmen alike.
In the South the Young Guard under the Bravest of the Brave, Ney, the Old Guard under Mortier and MacDonalds troops ran into the Russians from Sackens Corps. In the Centre the Paris Garrison under Gerard and Marshal Oudinot faced Yorck and Bulow’s Prussians, in the North Winzingerode, Druck and Wasilitchev, were holding up against the remaining French forces. Marching hard from the North was Kleist with his Prussians, but could they get there in time.
The battle was hard fought all along the front, the batteries in the centre and in the North blazed away at each other while in the heavily wooded southern sector the French slowly picked their way through to the Russian positions. The fighting here was particularly bloody with the French coming to grips with the Russians in bloody hand to hand in the woods, emerging from the Woods they then had to undergo repeated charges from Russian Uhlans and Hussars.
The Old Guard and the Young Guard began their advance once MacDonald had made some head way into the woods. The dense columns suffering frightful casualties, it was during this stage if the battle that the French artillery was dealt a particularly savage blow. Starting with MacDonald, then the Young Guard and finally the Old Guard the French lost a gun and two crew from each battery, three in all. The following turn they then lost a further two guns. Five batteries down to three guns and against six gun Russian batteries.
The pressure was building, the French troops in the North managed to drive the Russians out of the village on the furthest Northern flank, while engaging all along the front, this flank began to withdraw to it’s second line of defence. Unfortunately the French were quite badly mauled themselves and stopped for a few turns to reorganise and gather themselves for the next push.
In the centre the French National Guard under Gerard formed up into it’s columns of attack and by the Brigade began to advance in echelon toward the central village of La Croix.
Drums beating and banners held high they walked into a storm of shot, the lead battalions suffering horribly. On they came with the lead battalions being overtaken by the following fresher battalions and then with a cry of Vive Le Empereur, they surged into the gardens and over the walls into La Croix, the fighting raged for a full three melee phases with the Prussians almost losing heart in the second phase.
Finally the Guardsmen had to withdraw, they had held on to the bitter end and now, exhausted had retired in good order to redress their lines and go again. Fully 30% of their number would not rise again however, with similar casualties among the Prussian defenders. Night fell and both armies withdrew to their own lines. Kleist moved into the line and a re-shuffle of Cavalry Corps took place overnight.
The following day saw the Old Guard drive toward the village in the Southern half of the table., the Young Guard, although decimated, advanced to support their mentors. MacDonald surged through the woods again, only to be bludgeoned by Sackens Russians.
In the North Marmont and the French troops here pressed all along the Allied Northern flank. Swirling cavalry melee engaged the troops on the Centre, with whole Cavalry Corps becoming embroiled.
The Paris Garrison under Gerard was a spent force and now stood by watching Bulows Prussians in La Croix. Toward the end of the day the French decided to withdraw again, toward Epernay as best they could, the French Cavalry while a mere shadow of it’s formal self managed to screen the withdrawal.
This manoeuvre did allow the armies of Silesia and Bohemia to finally converge toward Paris. Napoleon withdrew to the Capital, pulling every Corps available to him into it’s defences.
The final battle was set, the Defence of Paris was about to begin!
The forces drew closer to Paris and the defenders began preparing positions for their artillery. Various redoubts were thrown up to house either gun batteries or infantry. The Army of Bohemia arrived from the South while the Army of Silesia closed from the North. French garrison troops further to the west of France hastened to the capital while troops along the roads to the East hastened to the support of the Garrison. Joseph, Napoleons brother was some what apathetic historically so any redoubt of which there were 4 for the table, that housed a battery would be determined calibre wise on the turn it opened fire. So it may perform as a 12, 8 or 6 pound battery, depending on the roll. I felt this represented the potential for a poor construction, limiting elevation etc. quite well.
The French army was helped by the fact that Napoleon had got back in the nick of time, his influence on the National Guard troops would be important, as any of these within 6″ of him got a morale bonus of +2., 12″ was only a +1. He was the only commander that they would respond to so he was going to be busy dashing from defence to defence. The Young Guard took up positions under Ney, the National Guard an impressive 24 battalions strong.
Marshals Victor, Oudinot and Marmont were also deployed. The Cavalry was commanded by Berkheim, Defrance, Doumerc, Kellerman and St Germain. Gerard held a division in reserve.
Marching to the battle from the west each turn on a roll from a d6 a National Guard battalion would arrive. 36 figs. 1 and a 4 were a failure any other number denoted the road this battalion arrived on.
From the East, MacDonald and three Cavalry Corps as well as the Old Guard.
Arrayed against them were the Army of Bohemia, including a host of Austrians under Gyulai and Nostitz, Russians under Wittgenstein and Pahlen as well as their new allies the Wurttemburg troops and the Bavarians. There were over 50 battalions of infantry and 13 regiments of Cavalry.
The Guard divisions held in reserve were to be rolled for each turn with a double on two d6 in order to release a specific division. Thos was to reflect Alexanders reluctance to use this valuable asset at this late stage.
The Army of the North under Blucher added a host of Prussian and Russian troops, under Generals such as Bulow and Yorck and Russians under Sacken and Langeron poured in from the North, 50 battalions of infantry and twelve regiments of cavalry.
The Northern sector of the battlefield, had the fort of St Denis, there was also two further redoubts which turned out to be a 12 pdr battery and a 6 pdr Battery to the south there were a further three batteries, with an 8, 12 and 6 pdr battery.
The fighting erupted all along each front! In the south the Austrians poured forward along with the Bavarians and Wurttemburgers the latter attacking in the west. Wittgensteins Russians moved toward the suburbs of Paris and were met with a furious fusillade from the National Guardsmen defending this sector. The redoubts on the outskirts were quickly overrun, but not before wreaking havoc among the Russian massed columns.
In the North the Army of Silesia began it’s attack at Fort St Denis, the Russians under Langeron advancing to within canister range and exchange volleys with the battery. To the east the link to the southern sector was kept open by the cavalry of the Young Guard and Kellerman, repeated charges into the Russian cavalry kept them at bay, to the west of the front the Prussians were pressing hard to capture the ferry across the Seine, Marmont had deployed his corps here and had initially dashed forward to intercept what he perceived to be an overstretched Prussian column of march.
The cavalry screening this turned to face and charged the French infantry, crashing into one of the lines, the rest of the cavalry was turned back however they had bought enough time for the Prussian artillery to deploy and open up on the poor Marie Louise’s
It was just at this moment that two battalions of National Guard emerged on the flank of the Prussians, while looking threatening they soon ground to a halt under some withering fire from the Prussian line infantry.
Back in the South the Russian cavalry corps covering the far eastern flank had wound it’s way across the tributary of the Seine and was now engaging the lead elements of Grouchy’s Cavalry Corps, the French Dragoon Regiments and Cuirassier crashing into the Russian Kuirassier and Uhlans.
The resulting melee saw the French break, none of it rallying!! MacDonalds infantry and Cavalry marched onto the field in line and began volleying into the massed Wurttemburg ranks, in return their gunners opened up with ball and blew great holes in the deploying lines. The light cavalry of this Corps managed to cross the bridge spanning the tributary and met head on with some Russian light cavalry, following two turns of bloody combat both sides withdrew, honours even! Around the suburbs of Paris the National Guard fought valiantly, Austrian columns repeatedly charged the buildings and gardens, retreated, rallied and then went forward again drums beating. On the western end of the southern flank more National Guardsmen turned up, throwing themselves into the fray, with very mixed results. Some of the National Guard stood and fought to the death while others turned and fled at the first casualties suffered.
Over on the Northern side of Paris Fort Denis fell, Russian Jaeger and Grenadiers pouring in through the embrasures, bayoneting the unfortunate gunners.
The cavalry keeping the communications open with the eastern flank were down to their very last squadrons, one of the Carabinier squadrons, broke into a Russian Musketeer square, crashing through trumpets blaring they rallied the other side of it, right in the thick of a Russian Corps…having rallied they turned to cut their way out and were mercilessly shot down by the infantry surrounding them.
Just after this drums and trumpets were heard from the East, Nansouty emerged from the smoke with the Guard Cavalry division, just to the south of them the Eagles of the Old Guard under Marshal Mortier could be seen marching steadfastly toward the Russian infantry attacking the French desperately holding the line.
The Russians turned to face this new threat, with little cavalry left of their own they began to form square in order for the attacks in the Centre to continue, it was a desperate rush now to capture the Capital. Ney’s Young Guard had been fighting valiantly in the Northern suburbs and were now down to 25% of their original strength, still they hung on though. The western side of this half of the battlefield saw the Prussians cutting down Marmonts corps and decimating the National Guardsmen that had not long ago threatened their flank!
The south wasn’t much better, the National Guard holding the suburbs were dying where they stood, the precise volleys from the Austrian and Bavarian Lines out volleying their untrained efforts.
Alexander, sensing victory agreed to the Grenadier and then the Guard divisions to be released, these steam rolled into the remaining French defences, whole front ranks of the Grenadier battalions were blown away, but still they came on and charged the miserable Guardsmen, cutting them down where they stood.
The allies were in the city!! The battle was over, Napoleon captured!
All in all a great week, the guys playing in the full spirit of the period! The map moves certainly lend a lot to the game a change to the linked battle system. The linked battle games offer a different feel completely, still we’ll see how they play out in July when we conduct the 1807 Polish Campaign.