Saturday, 20 July 2013

A Disastrous Retreat: Battle of Rothenburg Day 2, 21st August 1813

This was the second tabletop game that we have conducted for the Campaign of Nations. Our main table being occupied with our bicentennial game of Lützen, we set this one up at ANF Annexe A, aka Mark's place.

The Situation
Following the indecisive ‘skirmish in force’ at the Battle of Rothenburg on 20th August, Oudinot became aware, thanks to reconnaissance work by his light cavalry division, of Prussian troops advancing from the south-east to outflank him. He therefore decided to withdraw from his current position behind the eastern arm of the Bobr (Neisse) River to occupy a new position behind the western arm of the river system. This had to be achieved while being attacked by Ribbentrop’s Russian Cavalry and attached artillery that were on the east bank of the river. Oudinot ordered Sébastiani to cover the retreat.

Unknown to Oudinot, General de Kavallerie Blücher was leading a division of Russian Dragoons to try to pin or to outflank the French-Allied army. In addition, Prussian cavalry and infantry were marching towards the Rothenburg area from the south-east. Below is the campaign map enlarged to show the area to be represented on the tabletop and the initial dispositions of the troops (kindly supplied by gamemeister extraordinaire, MurdocK).

The area to be covered by the tabletop being roughly two campaign hexes long, with each hex representing approximately 6 miles across, meant that we needed to represent 12 mi, 19.3 km ≈ 9 650 mm at a scale of 1mm = 2 m. The available table was 8 ft (≈ 2 400 mm) long (x 4 ft wide). Therefore, we conducted the battle over four sequential tables.

The tables were represented in the sequence Table 1 to Table 4. We planned that the change-over from one table to another would be done either once the first troops had exited the western edge, or when the last troops did, whichever was more sensible in terms of the current tabletop action. We found that we needed to be more flexible than that...

Blücher’s command was lacking in infantry and artillery, but the number of dragoons (six units) was formidable. Here we see all the dragoons in the Russian commands, including four in two small divisions of Ribbentrop’s command.

The Game

We began the game on Board 1
Oudinot's corps ready to move west. Sébastiani's cavalry face-off Ribbentrop's troops across the river.

Close-up of Oudinot's infantry.

Oudinot sent his infantry divisions away from Rothenburg, while Excelmans' chasseurs  à cheval have taken fire from the Russian batteries on the other side of the river.

More of the same.

Excelmans' troopers pleased to be on the move after the 23e Chasseurs à cheval were broken by artillery fire.

The divisions from Oudinot's corps, from left to right Guilleminot, Pacthod and Raglowich, heading west with Excelmans cavalry following. Sébastiani with d'Hurbal's troopers still facing the Russians.

Excelmans' chasseurs putting distance between themselves and the Russian guns!

Overview of the situation.

The infantry have reached the western end of Board 1, now followed closely by Excelmans cavalry. Oudinot and Sébastiani with d'Hurbal's 2nd Light Cavalry Division are yet to move. 

View through the woods with Oudinot, Sébastiani and the 11e/12e Chasseurs à cheval.

A closer view of Oudinot and the rearguard.

Tschaplitz's Russian hussars, with the pontoon bridge remain a safe distance away from French guns, while their own guns bombard the French horsemen from the eastern bank.

Excelmans' 4th Light Cavalry Division prepares to face about to cover the withdrawal of d'Hurbal's troopers. The infantry are continuing their march for the western bridge.

Finally Oudinot has ordered d'Hurbal's men to head west.

Excelmans divsion in it's new position (note the headless horseman; sometimes these conversions have some problems!). In the distance...

d'Hurbal's division is on the move...

as are the Russians! Kaisarov's mounted jägers on the bridge, Tschaplitz's hussars moving towards the deployed pontoon.

The French cavalry are putting distance between themselves and the river,...

even as the Russians are crossing.

Both cavalry divisions reach the western end of Board 1.

Close-up view of Tschaplitz's column of hussars having crossed the pontoon bridge...

and of Kaisarov's mounted jägers moving down the road past Rothenburg.

Pantschuld's dragoons cross the bridge, following on from Kaisarov's men.

View from the east.

Oudinot with Excelmans' division facing the on-coming Russians, hoping to inflict some casualties with their horse guns and the corps heavy artillery (at right). d'Hurbal's men have headed to the west (now off-board).

The Russians had limited orders and formed a new line of battle around the line of the wood.

Oudinot ordered Excelmans' men to join the move west, their artillery fire having been ineffective.

The Russian cavalry left in their new positions, awaiting new orders to continue the pursuit.

With the action on Board 1 petering out, we moved location to Board 2.
Click video link below to continue...


  1. Thanks Phil. This campaign is throwing up some really interesting scenarios!

  2. The headless horseman's name isn't Roland, by any chance?

    1. Could be, but he's not the unit's trumpeter, so perhaps not!