Sunday, 7 December 2014

Guest blogger (6): Leipzig Day One, 16th October 1813

A re-fight of the Battle of Leipzig is a daunting prospect for most wargamers, but not Phil, our good e-friend and dedicated solo wargamer. He is working his way around the battlefield recreating key sections of the Battle of Nations.

Last time we posted a report of his re-fight of the combat around Wachau on the first day of the battle. This time we move to the west and slightly north for the allied attack on the French right flank in the southern sector.

Before I had over to Phil, here's a map of the battle, to help readers to orient themselves.

Extract of the Battle of Leipzig from The Public Schools Historical Atlas (1905) (Accessed http://www.emersonkent.com/map_archive/battle_of_leipzig.htm).


_________________________________________________________________________

16th October 1813; South of Leipzig. It’s 10 am and the opposing forces are moving into position.

General situation from the allied positions: Connewitz on the left, Probstheida in front and Holzhausen on the right. As with my Wachau refight the ground scale has been reduced so I also reduced the movements only to find out at the end of the game that this had already been done (in my version of Volley & Bayonet) so everyone moved much slower than they should have in this game.

Aerial view of French left around Holzhausen showing MacDonald’s XI Corps & Lauriston’s V Corps.

Zieten’s Prussian’s march towards Holzhausen while Zucchi’s Italian’s prepare to defend the village.

On the Allied left Hesse-Homburg moves up.

To counter, units of the Young Guard start to arrive to support Poniatowski’s Poles.

I got engrossed in the game so there seems to be a bit of a gap here. According to my notes a stiff fight developed around Holzhausen in turn 3, with the Russians (Württemberg) storming Probstheida and Augereau being forced back from the sheep pens. Hesse-Homburg took Connewitz.

(Turn 4) French counter attack on Holzhausen is driven off though they remain in possession but they are successful at Probstheida retaking the village and driving off the Russians.

A Polish cavalry charge routs Austrian Landwehr and Connewitz is retaken by their infantry.
An Austrian attack on Holzhausen stalls but to the west it is a bad turn for the French as II-6 rout and lose a brigade and east of Connewitz IX-5-2 is taken in the flank by Austrian Cuirassiers and destroyed.

14:00
More Guard units arrive and the fight around Connewitz intensifies with the Grenadiers of Hesse-Homburg’s reserve and Nostitz’ Cuirassiers clashing with the Poles and eventually pushing them out with heavy casualties.

Meanwhile in the centre the Russian II Corps attempts to push Victor out of Probstheida but are repulsed with heavy losses.

Kleist’s Prussians take the sheep pens in the left centre after a fierce battle, severely mauling Augereau and eventually the Austrians take Connewitz. Things are looking good for the Allies.

15:00
The Austrians finally get into action on the allied right; launching an assault on Holzhausen.

French cavalry and infantry reinforcements move up in the centre to mount a counter-attack as MacDonald & Marmont commit their reserves. But is it all too late as Bennigsen's Army of Poland is seen in the distance?
Allied reinforcements allow the offensive to be renewed across the whole front.

Austrian troops establish a toehold in Holzhausen and in the centre the Russians are back in Probstheida.

All of the front line villages are now in allied hands.

16:00
Schwarzenberg and his staff overseeing the battle...

The problem with this scenario is that at this point Bennigsen should be attacking in the east but the table just isn’t big enough! The scenario stipulated that Holzhausen had to have been taken by now for them to be deployed so we will have to imagine they are conducting a flank march.

In the meantime; the Austrians are fighting hard around Holzhausen as the French counter attack goes in.

17:00
In keeping with the historical scenario (rather than game situation) the French begin to draw off towards Leipzig and Bennigsen’s army appears in force in the east, throwing back French counter-attacks and taking control of Probstheida.
This is the killer blow for the French are already losing ground in all areas except just east of Connewitz where the Young Guard are counter-attacking. The French still seem to have large cavalry forces uncommitted – I feel this may be a fault with my scenario as following losses in the campaign to date they would not have been so strong by this point.

The French infantry is however on its last legs and has suffered from poor dice luck throughout.
The allies hold all the main positions and I don’t see that changing (especially with Bennigsen’s troops arriving).

I had thought my game too cramped but read that Napoleon had little room for manoeuvre in the real battle so I guess that’s right...


18:00

Last desperate French attack achieves nothing with the final allied attacks pushing them back towards Leipzig.

There was to be no reprieve for Napoleon in this battle.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Another diorama

I have no intention of turning this from a wargaming blog to a modelling one, but Frank and Vasa's diorama of Ligny is difficult to resist.



They are using Art Minaturen, Revell and Zvezda figures, so it's in TOTS ('the one true scale'), 1/72nd—more reason to put links to his fine work here (hehe)!

Click here for Frank's update number three with more photos such as the one above.
His second update features the preparation of the terrain board.
The first update gives historical background to the project.

This merely whets my appetite for all the wonderful bicentennial games to come in 2015!

You can find links to updates and play-tests in preparation for the bicentennial of the Hundred Days, along with refights of battles from earlier bicentennial years. on the Wargaming Waterloo 2015 blog—click on the tabs at the top of the blog to see the lists..

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Farewell at Fontainebleau

Not wargaming, but the modelling is marvellous and well worth a look.


Click here to see Frank's third update. Scroll down the page to see how the project is developing.

Marvellous!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Assembly of facts, raw and untainted

Book review: British Battles of the Napoleonic Wars 1793–1815: Despatches from the Front, compiled by John Grehan & Martin Mace

(Book cover art kindly provided by the publishers. Please do not reproduce without obtaining permission)

These two books present a collection of despatches written by British commanders (generals, admirals and captains) following selected battles that involved British land and/or naval forces during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.


This is not a complete list of actions involving British forces during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Grehan and Mace limit themselves to “reports of large-scale engagements from senior officers exercising independent commands” (p. viii), with ‘large-scale’ being in the context of the commitment of British forces over the 22 years covered by the books.

The 89 battles selected (53 in the first book and 36 in the second) include the well-known such as Glorious First of June, Cape St Vincent, The Nile, Alexandria, Trafalgar, Coruña, Talavera, Salamanca, Vitoria, Toulouse and, of course, Waterloo. However, less well-known actions are also included, with some relating to defeats for British arms, such as the battles of Bergen, Alkmaar and Castricum (1799) and Battle of Grand Port 1810—Walcheren (July-September 1809) is a notable omission, although the capture of Flushing is included.

The format of the two books is the same, with despatches from the selected battles presented in chronological order. Each simply comprises a heading with the name of the battle or action, followed by the note of the receipt of the original despatch and then despatch itself reproduced in full.

The book does not include a map of each battle, however a world map and a more detailed map of Europe indicate the locations of each. This is useful to help the reader to find a particular battle of interest, or to check the geographic location of a battle. It is also quite impressive and demonstrates the geographic reach and impact of the wars.

Included in the centre pages of each book are plates, most of them in colour, of paintings of some of the commanding officers who were the authors of despatches and of selected battles. Each plate has two images, either a commander and painting of a battle scene, two commanders or two battle scenes. While these images are now in the public domain, thanks to Wikimedia Commons, I found it helpful to have such plates included and they also add to the aesthetic value of the books.
"Battle of Cape Finisterre" by William Anderson, Collections of the National Maritime Museum (Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons).
Siege of Badajoz, Devil's Own 88th Regiment by Woodville (Wikimedia Commons)

These are the type of books that one is unlikely to read from cover to cover, but rather to ‘dip’ into when a need or interest arises. I have read about a quarter of the presented despatches, choosing those related to the battles that we have done as wargames, others that we may look to do in the near future or just to get some understanding of a previously unknown (to me) action.

One such case was following our game of San Domingo. It was edifying to read Admiral Duckworth’s despatch, having completed a re-fight of the battle on the tabletop. Our game largely followed the history, ‘though with some notable divergences. These became more obvious upon reading Duckworth’s descriptive account of the action and his despatch took on greater significance and had more clarity having recently ‘been there’ on the wargames table.

Another example is the Battle of Grand Port (August 1810). This has greater significance to me following a visit to Mauritius a few years ago. Reading the despatch spurred me to seek more information about the action. Who knows, we may even make it the subject of our next Napoleonic naval game?
Battle of Grand Port by Gilbert (Wikimedia Commons)

[Interestingly, despatches following the landing at Grand Baie in November 1810 and subsequent skirmishes that resulted in the capture of Ile de France on 3rd December 1810 are not presented.]

Lastly, as we approach the bicentennial of Waterloo, it was interesting and edifying to read the Duke of Wellington’s despatch in full and unedited. This is the last despatch presented in the second book.

The presentation of despatches, transcribed from the originals, provides a bonus for students of language. The despatches are replete with variations in spelling and the nuances of English writing of the time, all of which varied between the corresponding generals (or the staff officers who wrote the despatches). These include the copious use of capital letters, erratic hyphenation (such as Major-General) and the inclusion or exclusion of ‘u’ in words ending in ‘our’ (or). Grehan and Mace discuss this facet at some length in the introduction to each book, particularly since it is an aspect that has been maintained as the despatches presented are unedited transcriptions of the originals.
“It is the job of the historian not only to assemble facts and present them to their public but also to interpret those facts. Much is lost and gained in such interpretations. […] Where then lies the truth? […] But only one account will be authentic—that delivered by the man who witnessed the events in person. […] Only the most senior officers can have a holistic view of the unfolding events and their possible short-term consequences. It is to those persons that we must turn’ (p. vii).
This statement in the introduction to the first book, whilst of noble intent, must be tempered with the knowledge that the despatches were written with a particular audience(s) in mind. “To lie like a bulletin” may well be an accusation that was laid at the feet of Napoleon by his enemies, but the reality is that commanders from all of the nations, including Britain, were fluid with the truth.

A well known example is Beresford’s report of the Battle of Albuera (16th May 1811). Recalling his meeting Beresford’s aide de camp, Major Arbuthnot, and reading the marshal’s original despatch Wellington said,
“I remember he wrote me word that he was delighted I was coming, that he could not stand the slaughter about him and the vast responsibility. His letter was quite in a desponding tone. It was brought to me next day, I think, by General Arbuthnot when I was at dinner at Elvas, and I said directly, this won’t do, write me down a victory. The despatch was altered accordingly. Afterwards they grew very proud of the battle, and with full reason. There is no doubt they had completely got the better of Soult”*.
*Stanhope, Philip Henry, 5th Earl (1888) Notes of conversations with the Duke of Wellington : 1831-1851. John Murray, London. 341 pp.

The expurgated version of the despatch that was reported to the government at home is the one included here.

By way of clarification (and rebuttal) the last word on this should go to Grehan and Mace.
“This then is our assembly of facts, raw and untainted. Their interpretation is yours alone” (p. ix).
A ‘student' of history cannot ask for much more.

Rating

Monday, 17 November 2014

Sails of Glory at the NWS

Last week found me in the big smoke again, so I was able to attend the Napoleonic Wargaming Society, my home away from home.

This time, the game was Sails of Glory. Mark H. (aka ‘Marc’) organised the game and acted as umpire and gamemeister. I took the French, naturellement, and Mark B. the British.

This was my first game with this rules system (although I have played a few games of Wings of War/Glory at the Club previously). It was good timing, given our recent game of San Domingo at ANF HQ.

Marc has a clear, full and detailed report on his blog, so I’ll merely add a few additional photos and some observations of my own about the Sails of Glory, based on this n = 1 experience.

The scenario laid out. Note wind blowing across the table (making for some up and back sailing) and the ‘control panel’ for each ship (French side shown).

The ships approach one another.

Généreux approaches the enemy.

First blood to les bons hommes français…

but Mark drew well from the damage chits; not the only time.

The two third-rates come to blows…

with results about even.

‘Control panel’ showing the damage apportioned to the French third-rate (Généreux).

The ships sailed around to make another pass of one another.

The frigates now had a ‘go’.

Then the big girls came in to support their little mates. Note the four zeros beside the British frigate; that’s four misses—good drawing by Mark.

Now bringing its port broadside to bear, appropriately loaded with ball (see report on Marc’s blog for significance of this comment), the Vanguard gets a raking broadside on Généreux.

Courageuese gave her big sister a hand, scoring some damage to Vanguard’s rigging…

only to become an RN sandwich!

She did manage to score a little bit of damage on HMS Meleager (damage chits laid out at rear).

It was all over for Courageuse.

The control panels for Vanguard (seriously damaged) and Meleager (little damaged). The Généreux had suffered less damage than her British third-rate counterpart.

To me, based on this one-of outing, the Sails of Glory system produced an engrossing and enjoyable game. It is ideally suited for the time limitations of a Club night. The system is simple to pick up, sailing works well, other factors are dealt with reasonably and it flows well. Interestingly, the counters and ‘control panel’, which should make the bookkeeping side of naval wargaming simpler/easier, actually seemed to make it more clumsy. I would have preferred a simple grid to cross off as damage was done, or even a blank page on which to note the changing status of the ships.

I’ll look forward to playing Sails of Glory again on another occasion at the NWS, particularly if Mark and Stephen start to ‘tweak’ the rules.

——————————————————————————-

Lastly, some photos of other games at the Club on that night; American Civil War using Regimental Fire and Fury and two mediaeval games using Impetus.



Another most enjoyable evening catching up, albeit briefly, with old wargaming friends. Hopefully I’ll get down there again soon.