The battle of Eylau has rolled around very quickly, it seems like only last week we were enjoying a game of this at the old Wargames Holiday Centre. The battle is a complex one, probably one of the most complex in our Napoleonic portfolio due to the adverse weather conditions.
A view of the battlefield as things get underway.
The real battle was fought in freezing conditions with a blinding snowstorm impairing the senses of all that took part in it. Whole Corps actually got lost in the snow, only to find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Augerau’s Corp was devastated after wandering into the massed Gun Batteries of the Russians at close range, with these guns being the target of the French Guns the carnage for these souls was immense.
A French 8 pound foot battery begins to pound the advancing Russians of their left wing.
So I looked to give a feel for this to our players, changes in weather, fair through light to heavy snow, the results of snow impeding movement and visibility and with heavy snow actually causing the formations to meander out of position.
A Russian Hussar regiment from the Russian fourth division take on Kleins Dragoon division in the centre of the line.
Our players turned up on Friday afternoon, chose their respective sides and looked at the battlefield. The Russians chose to have the Russian second division as the reserve that should arrive on a six. The Cavalry division of Prince Galitzin was released on a five or six, this was to reflect the troops being held in reserve historically and only released after a period of time.
The Pavlov Grenadiers wade through the marshy ground in front of Schloditten.
On the French side the Corps of Davout was force marching to the battlefield now that Napoleon had pinned Bennigsen in place, hoping to arrive on the flank of the deployed Russians. They also were aware of Ney’s Corps pursuing the Prussian General Lestocq, these were possible reinforcements for both sides.
French Guard cavalry charge the Russian Centre.
It started with a general advance by the Russian right wing, pushing on toward the marshy ground in front of the French Left wing and on to the Windmill Knoll. The Russian centre and left looked to hold off the French Corps of Soult and the Imperial Guard. The Russians outnumber the French quite considerably to start, however that would soon change with the arrival of Davout. The Russians knew that the French Corps of Davout would arrive and smash into the left flank, but when? It was important to try to smash the French left and drive into their centre as quickly as possible.
French infantry from Davout’s Corps battle with the Russian infantry of the eighth division.
The French decided to have Ney intercept Lestocq, this means that neither formations arrive and is a decision for the French to make, the Russians were unaware of this factor and looked to the Prussians to arrive at some point to no avail. Early on, the French managed to get one of Davout’s divisions on to the Russian left wing, Morand tactical marching on to the battlefield.
The Russians hoped for the release of the Russian reserves, to no avail. As the battle wore on, more of Davout’s Corps arrived, the Russians managed to release the Cavalry Division that was sent to reinforce the Russian left. Some initial success came after a squadron of Uhlans materialised out of the heavy snow just inches away from a limbered foot artillery battery managing to ride them down along with their infantry support, who were also in column of route. Still Davout came on!
The Russian Centre held firm, while the Russian right began crossing the frozen stream and the marsh ground, withering French volleys cutting down ranks of brave Russian infantrymen. The heavy snow persisted throughout the battle, only letting up for one turn, so any movement was quite difficult, as your formation could end up causing confusion in your ranks or worse. The Russian right had captured the village of Schloditten, while one of the Russian divisions sought to re-take the Fulling Mills just in front of the Russian lines. This was a surprise to the Russian player as the French skirmishers had not been observed until the Russians were quite literally on top of them. The battle to re-take these proved costly as well.
The village of Serpallen stand firm against the initial assault by the French.
In the Centre the French Guard began to advance, filing passed the cemetery and on to the middle of the Russian line, still the last Russian Infantry division and the Prussians did not come and things were getting tight! On the French right, Davout was pressing on toward the Russians and the village of Serpallen, one of Soult’s divisions looking to support it’s drive toward this apex of the Russian line.
French Dragoons from Grouchy’s Cavalry Division advance on the Russian left wing.
Prince Galitzin’s cavalry fought bravely against the French cavalry but these were proving too numerous, so retired behind the Russian line of infantry and awaited developments. On the French left Augerau’s Corps was pounded by the massed guns of the Russians, while the Russian infantry pushed on inexorably toward the French left centre.
A view from the village of Serpallen of the Russian centre and the French advance froacross the frozen stream.
The final blow came when the Russians lost the village of Serpallen, re-took it and then finally lost it again to overwhelming number. Just where was that Russian division that was supposed to bolster the line, it just never materialised! A Victory to the French.
Overall the weather rules worked quite well, the facts being that one French Battery and a battalion of infantry got ridden down as a result along with a Russian infantry column, the heavy snow fouling their powder.
All the participants had a great weekend and everyone went home happy, next time, the battle of Dresden 1813.