Friday, 24 May 2013

Campaign of Nations Game: Battle of Rothenburg, 20th August 1813

A big skirmish

The Game In Brief

This game was done as part of the Campaign of Nations that is being expertly run by David (aka ‘MurdocK’) from MurdocK’s Marauders. There are not as many nations involved as the original campaign, but the geographic reach is greater with involvement from Canada, USA, UK, Spain and Australia.

This particular battle took place around the small town of Rothenburg in eastern Saxony. The initial briefing notes were simple:
“The battle is in Hex 27,36, with the French on the west bank of the Neisse and the Russians advancing from the East. Russian attackers have been ordered to cross the Neisse River in force.”

Section of map showing the location of the battle. Rothenburg is the black circle, the Niesse River shown in blue with the north-south, Cothus-Görlitz road in brown and the north-west–south-east, Hoyerswerda-Görlitz road in black.

Our table looking north-west along the Niesse River. The road runs north-south with Rothenburg to the left (represented by a single building) and the key bridge in the centre.

Close-up view looking north towards Rothenburg and the bridge over the Neisse R.

The French were lead by Marshal Oudinot who had command of his own XII Corps plus two light cavalry divisions from Sébastiani's II Reserve Cavalry Corps (see list below). These troops were deployed as far west as Rothenburg, 450 m either side of the town.

The Russian attackers under General Intendent von Ribbentrop had Korff’s 1st Cavalry Corps (less a mounted jäger division) plus a second Russian Cavalry Corps under Generallieutenant Vassil'shikov. The force was roughly 50:50 regular cavalry (dragoons and hussars) and Cossacks. They approached from the north-east on the road to Görlitz (north-south road).

French Order of Battle

Russian Order of Battle

We put in a few 'tricky' bits to make life more difficult for ourselves; e.g. at least one Russian 'division' had to be on attack orders at the beginning of the game, the French set-up was concentrated around Rothenburg and we limited the number of aides de camp. We did the latter by a die roll: 1–2 = one aide, 3–5 = two aides, 6 = three aides. I rolled a 1, Mark a 2!
At the end of Turn 1 Mark read out the secret dispatch that he, as the Russian commander, had received before the battle. This is detailed below, but in effect meant that if he did not like the odds, which, understandably, he did not, he could merely hold his position.
He therefore sent Grekov VIII's Cossacks over the pontoon bridge to cause a 'distraction' on the French left and used Karpov's men to draw much of the French artillery fire. On the French side I was initially defending so, attempting to send new orders to one division at a time, I sent Roussel d'Hurbal’s light cavalry division to meet Grekov's men, eventually supported by Wolff’s cavalry of XII Corps.
The resulting combat was a mixture of brief mêlées and evasion by the Cossacks. The French cavalry won most of the mêlées, but were also beaten in a couple of them, although not decisively. There was plenty of artillery fire.
In the end both Cossack 'divisions' were 'broken'—read as 'dispersed' in order to find some easier pickings! Casualties on the French side were light, although two battalions were 'broken' by artillery fire. 

So, the game was more of a big skirmish than a battle and ended with both sides back at their starting positions, sans a few units and good men; a clear 'draw' result. Another example of the futility of war?

Turn By Turn
Initial Set-up
French around Rothenburg, Pacthod's division in the left foreground with Raglowich's Bavarian division to the right of the photo.

Grekov VIII's Cossacks preparing to cross the river (pontoon bridge was laid at this point). Vassil'shikov's cavalry are to the left of the Cossacks (just visible to the right of picture).

Vassil'shikov's cavalry and the corps reserve artillery (a heavy and horse battery). The remainder of von Ribbentrop's army are to the left of these troops (right of photo).

Turn 1

Grekov VIII's Cossacks cross the Neisse at the pontoon bridge (extreme north-west edge of the table) while at the south-eastern end, Karpov's Cossacks advanced down the road towards the bridge over the Neisse.

Turn 2
Mark revealed the additional orders contained in the dispatch that was for Russian eyes only:
“Von Ribbentrop is to VIGOROUSLY press the attack if he has superior numbers. Should he win the day he is to PURSUE the enemy as long as he is able. Should he encounter forces superior in number he is to HOLD his position if at all possible and send word for reinforcements.”

Orders were sent to d'Hurbal in the command phase of Turn 1, so his cavalry began moving to the left (bottom centre of photo) as Grekov VIII's Cossacks continue to cross the river (top of photo).

At the other end of the table the French are still in position around Rothenburg as Karpov's Cossacks advance towards the bridge over the Neisse river (you may have noted in the order of battle that these troops were prohibited from crossing the river).

Close-up of Karpov's command.

Oudinot's army.

Turn 3
The turn began with some deadly French artillery fire. Karpov's Loukoffkin Cossacks were 'broken', a 'kill' was inflicted on 1st Ukraine Cossacks of Grekov's division and also on Alexandria hussars. For their part the Russian artillery fire staggered the French 4e lancers.
Plenty of sixes in the command phase saw two staff officers for the French and 'resurrecting' Russian cavalry: Grekov's 1st Ukraine Cossacks and the Alexandria hussar!

d'Hurbal's cavalry continued their advance to meet Grekov's Cossacks.

Oudinot ordered Pacthod to advance to cover the bridge (fortunately I had forgotten that Karpov could not cross so I made this realistic move)—it also brought his guns closer to the Russians.

Close-up of Pacthod's troops.

Karpov's Cossacks in final position.
Turn 4
Once again more devastating French artillery fire on Grekov's and Karpov's Cossacks. Two units were 'broken' (dispersed)—1st Teptar & Zikilev Cossacks from Grekov and 4th Ukrainian Cossacks from Karpov. The Russians caused a 'kill' on the 2e French lancers, but this was recovered thanks to another 6 for divisional initiative!

d'Hurbal's cavalry ever so close, but not quite in contact!

Pacthod's guns in position to fire on Karpov's men.

Karpov's division passed divisional morale at 1/3 losses. Oudinot set orders to Guilleminot to fill the gap left by Pacthod's troops around Rothenburg (thus bringing his guns into action).

Turn 5
The Karpov #2 Cossacks from the eponymous division were broken by artillery fire. Further casualties were also caused on Grekov's men.

On the north-western flank, the 3rd Ukraine Cossacks from Grekov's division charged the 4e lancers in the flank.

The French 2e lancers charged and broke the 1st Ukraine Cossacks of Grekov's division, they broke through against the 2nd Ukraine Cossacks, but the Cossacks evaded.

Overview of the situation at the end of movement.

The 4e lancers were pushed back by the flank attach of the 3rd Ukraine Cossacks while the latter rallied back to their lines.

The 2e lancers had cleared all before them.

The 4e lancers rallied.

Karpov's division was demoralised.

Oudinot sent an aide to order Wolff to move to left in support of d'Hurbal, but the aide was killed!
Turn 6

d'Hurbal's 1/12e chasseurs charged and broke the Kutainikov #8 Cossacks.

Pacthod's division reached the southern/western side of the bridge.

Overview of the battlefield.

Turn 7

The 3rd hussars (pictured) charged Grekov's Isaeva #2 &Selivanov #2 Don Cossacks who evaded. Ditto for the 9th hussars, but these latter were charged by the 2nd Ukraine Cossacks and the 9th were beaten! The Cossacks broke through on the flank of the 3rd. Each unit received a casualty (hence the red 'cap' above) in the first round of mêlée and then the Cossacks were broken in the second. The 9th hussars rallied in place.

Grekov's division passed morale at 50% losses.

Turn 8
The 8th & 13th Bavarian line (seen above, to right of the photo) were broken by Russian artillery fire.

d'Hurbal's cavalry approach the Neisse as Grekov's remaining Cossacks retire to the pontoon bridge.

Wolff's small division (Westphalian chevau-légers lanciers de la garde and Bavarian chevau-légers advance to support d'Hurbal.

Tschaplitz's Russian hussars moved away from the French guns
Oudinot ordered Excelmans to move around the left flank, but the aide was delayed in delivering the order.
Turn 9

The French artillery was not so devastating, but the Russians began to inflict casualties on Pacthod and Raglowich's men.

The 4e lancers charged Grekov's 3rd Ukraine Cossacks who evaded over the pontoon bridge.

Oudinot's orders to Excelmans got through.
Turn 10
The artillery fire was telling on both sides. Pacthod's 7e ligne was broken, another unit each from Grekov and Karpov was broken (dispersed) and Tschaplitz's Alexandria hussars were broken.

Berdejev's , Kaisarov's and Pantschuld's divisions eye the French who are helplessly sabre-rattling on the west bank.

The Russian pontonniers move away from the river.

Grekov is a lonely figure: both his and Karpov's Cossack divisions have broken.

In the command phase Oudinot sent Wolff an order to withdraw but the aide was delayed.

Turn 11
The battle had descended into an artillery duel. The French guns caused further casualties on Tschaplitz's hussars. The Russian batteries continued to whittle away infantry in Pacthod's division.

Another view of d'Hurbal's and Wolff's cavalry on the west bank.

French position around Rothenburg with Raglowich's Bavarian on this north-western side (closest to camera). Note the 48-gun battery in the foreground. This had caused the damage to the Russian cavalry. Also Guilleminot's battery in front of Rothenburg.

The orders reached Wolf to withdraw.

Turn 12
The last turn.
Artillery fire produced minimal casualties...

there were some minor movements; d'Hurbal's cavalry pulled back slightly, Wolff turned his cavalry about turn to move to the rear and Excelmans manoeuvred to the left flank to bring his guns to bear.

Berdejev's, Kaisarov's and Pantschuld's divisions: untouched.

Tschaplitz's hussars had received some fire over the course of the battle.

Looking west across the Neisse River at Oudinot's position.

The bridge over the Neisse River, not contested this day.

Closing comments
It was interesting for us, particularly me, with our focus on historical re-fights, to play a game of a fictitious battle; albeit within an historically-based campaign. One certainly plays the game more carefully knowing that there is a 'tomorrow'; and also that it is someone else's command that you are messing about with!

It will be interesting to do another game from the campaign in which the situation lends itself to a more determined contest. No doubt several of these are in the offing... I hope that I get equally good rolls (particularly sixes for artillery and initiative) next time!
Let's conclude with a bit of a figure parade, firstly with a couple of 'staged' photos and then some from the game.
A close-up of two of Mark's beautifully painted 9e hussars. Italeri figures.

More of the same.

My 2nd Provisional Dalmatian regiment; Ykreol figures. The regiment was wiped out in Russia and was reconstituted in 1813, dressed in brown uniforms of the Austrian grenzer cut—but I'm gonna use any excuse to field these in their 1812 uniform! It is often called the Illyrian regiment and confused with the Régiment d'Illyrie that was uniformed similarly to French light infantry.

Mark's French chevau-légers lanciers. Hat figures.

My Westphalian chevau-légers lanciers de la garde which were painted sufficiently to field for the game. I'll finish them off ready for our Bautzen game later this year—the flag needs a touch-up and shows that I was up to the wee hours to get them ready! Figures originally Strelets Saxon Garde du Corps.

Russian mounted jägers. Strelets figures, Mark's painting. Lovely!

Some more Strelets dragoons with an Italeri officer in front and Strelets one to the left.

More of Mark's dragoons, this time Mars late dragoon figures.

The Ahtyrka hussars; exquisite Zvezda figures with a great paint-job by Mark.

The Bavarian 5th (von Preysing) line infantry. Hat figures, Mark's painting/collection.

Nassau infantry (used as Bavarian lights in this game). More Hat figures and Mark's painting.


  1. Awesome use of alternate figures to get the color and feel of the allied French formations!

    Yes, the Campaign battles are somewhat different, when tomorrow is included in your calculations ...

  2. Enjoyed the Gallery!

    Yes, in a campaign situation, there is little reason to just play out an all out assault where there is no advantage to be had, unlike a one-off battle.


  3. A great AAR. This is a typical example of combat, as opposed to formal battle. In the Napoleonics wars, there were many, many combats that us, wargarmers, don't like fight, as Gonslavo said above, because there was not any advantage to gain from it. However, they are fun.

  4. Well done, Gents! That was an interesting report and a superb table. Would have been fun to bee there!

    Jim aka Schwartzenburg

  5. You did a great job following the orders I gave. I've also had the trepidation of incurring loses to someone else's troops. Great AAR, loved the different figs. And believe it or not, this battle, though relatively small was of great significance to the overall strategy.


  6. Thanks gents. This campaign is getting most interesting...!

    Thanks again to David for his excellent work as the gamemeister and to the other players for 'makin' it interesting'!

  7. job today The jobs were mostly unskilled and fairly low paid, and there were a few cases of self-employment.