Saturday, 11 January 2014

Battle of Bautzen 20–21 May 1813: Day Two, 21st May—Conclusion

Fin de l’année 2013: 1

This is the first in a brief series of posts about our games from December 2013.

At the end of our second session of this bicentennial game of the Battle of Bautzen we reached what seemed to be the turning point. The French-Allied army was bringing its numbers to bear, yet the Russo-Prussians were still holding firm. The latter were running short of infantry, but they had plenty of cavalry and good stuff it was too.

As a re-cap, here’s a view of the table at the end of the 15:00 turn...
and across the table from north to south

Around this time in the historical battle von Müffling tells us,
When after a long delay, Ney began at last to ascend the heights, I pulled out my watch, and said to General Blücher, near whom was Gneisenau: “We have still a quarter of an hour, within which time it is possible to get rounded. If we do not make use of this time, the cowards among us will surrender,—the brave will die fighting,—but unhappily, without the slightest benefit to their country.” There was a deep silence. Gneisenau was greatly agitated: at last he spoke: “Lieutenant Colonel Müffling is right; and in the present circumstances, not only is all bloodshed superfluous, but it is a duty to preserve our forces for a better opportunity.”
As we began the third and last instalment of this massive game we wondered, would the French-Allied army break-through, especially in the north, or would the freshness and quality of the Russo-Prussian cavalry and the arriving Russian guard and grenadiers stabilise the situation?

Above and below: in the north, Peyri’s Italian division (Bertrand’s IV Corps) stepped up the attack on the Prussian defence formed by von Klüx’s, von Roder and von Dolff’s groops. The 2nd Neapolitan chasseurs à cheval got the better of the West Prussian Uhlans.

Above and below: immediately south of them, Compans’ division of Marmont’s VI Corps continued the assault of Litten—which continued, as it had previously, to be defended tenaciously by the 2/1st West Prussian Infantry of von Klux's brigade—and von Kleist’s position south of the town.

von Klüx’s infantry fought back Peyri’s infantry attack with well-timed volleys, but Ney’s divisions were gathering to join Bertrand’s men.

In the centre, Bonnet’s division of Marmont’s corps, supported by the grand battery of the guard artillery continued to drive in Sass’, Markov’s and Turtschaninov’s defensive line.

South of this, the Russian guard moved to support Württemberg’s hard-pressed infantry…

while Berg’s dragoons (Kargopol this time, but ‘disguised’) continued to get the better of the guard cavalry.

Giving us this overall situation at the end of the 15:30 turn—note French reserve cavalry in the centre left of the photo.

Spurred by the success of their comrades, the Mitau dragoons (also disguised) charged a battery of guns and the weakened Young Guard grenadiers å cheval, breaking both!

Cossacks! Further north, Kleist’s Illowisaisk #4 Cossack saw the opportunity to strike Compans’ unsuspecting foot artillery battery.

Overview of the table. Note the French reserve cavalry massing in the centre-left of the photo.

In the south Oudinot’s corps was in a stalemate against the Eugene of Württemberg’s Russian cavalry around the edge of the woods; but the French controlled the southern villages.

Three photos below: the action at the southern end of the battlefield. The lead division of the cavalry reserve (Doumerc’s dragoons) engaged with Berg’s Russian cavalry, only to be beaten back by none other than… the “mighty” Moscow dragoons (of Golymin fame)!

Above and below: the area between Jenkwitz and Baschütz the Guard light cavalry, led by the red lancers, fared much better, breaking two squares of Berg’s infantry.

Below: the Guard grand battery, supported by a square of the Young Guard (represented here by line infantry) saw off successive charges from 1 &3/1st West Prussia dragoons and the Brandenburg dragoons of von Wuthernov’s brigade (Yorck’s Prussian II Corps).

Above and two below: around Baschütz, the Russian guard jäger repulsed an attack by the 1st tirailleurs (heavily disguised in bearskins), while the 2nd tirailleurs (also disguised in bearskins) broke the combined fusiliers of the 2nd West Prussia and 2nd Silesia regiments.

Below: back in the north of the battlefield, Compans’ men again tried unsuccessfully to assault Kleist’s troops in their defences. Seeing another opportunity, the latter’s Silesian hussars charged and broke one of the battalions of the artillerie de la marine.

View form the north showing the desperate defence by Dolff’s Klüx’s and Kleist’s troops (Litten at right-centre).

Ney’s infantry continued their slow, but inexorable advance.

Below: the men of Klüx’s brigade continued to defend their ground, even counter-attacking when the opportunity presented. In one such attack, the 2 & 4/1st West Prussia and the Neumarkt dragoons (centre of top photo; the former disguised as hussars), charged the 2nd Neapolitan chasseurs à cheval, who, meeting their attackers at the gallop, broke them (with a bit of luck from the dice gods)!

Attacked on three sides and now reduced to half-strength, the men of von Klüx’s Lower Silesian brigade broke and retreated from the field.

It was now 17:00 and the Russo-Prussian players had to roll to see if the game-ending storm arrived. Historically a violent storm late on the 21st May (~22:00) ended the battle and restricted the pursuit by the French-Allied army. We included a rule in the scenario to have the storm arrive early, immediately ending the game. For this to occur, the Russo-Prussian player had to roll a D6 at the beginning of each turn from 17:00 onwards. On a modified result of ‘0’ the storm arrived and the game ended. There was a cumulative -1 modifier each turn from 17:00 onwards. Julian rolled the die...
The battle continued, with cavalry in action all over the field.

Chasseur! In typical style, Chastel’s combined 6e/8e/25e chasseurs à cheval charged and broke a unit of Cossacks.

Meanwhile in the north the East Prussian and Brandenburg cuirassiers of Dolff’s Prussian reserve cavalry each caught a unit of Souham’s men out of square, dispersing the young Frenchmen.

Kleist’s Silesian hussars continued to rain merry hell on Compans’ men; causing the French division to break.

Below: The lead regiments of Depreradovich’s 1st cuirassier division charged the Guard grand battery, which was supported by a square of the 3rd voltigeurs. Unable to break through, the Russian heavy horsemen retired and rallied behind their countrymen.

Below: around Jenkwitz, the Neapolitan élite regiment joined with the red lancers in attacking the Russian guard. The lancers prevailed, but the Neapolitans were sent packing, their staff officer captured.

Above and below: further south, the previously victorious 2nd tirailleurs attacked the Russian guard jägers on the heights near Blösa, meeting the same fate as their coevals.

It was now the beginning of the 17:30 turn. Julian rolled for the arrival of the storm. This time the modifier was -2:
Speakers up nice and loud!!

The timing was perfect as, had we continued, we were going to enter the realms of fighting to the ‘death’ since neither side was gonna break-off.

Some final photos of the situation at the end of the game.
Level of Victory
With the arrival of the storm the opposing commanders added up the losses in MR of divisions broken, retreating (1/2 points of MR) or demoralised (1/3 points of MR), and we determined who held the key towns (from the perspective of victory points).

French-Allied losses totalled 176 points of MR (see table below).
None of the necessary towns held.
Total = 176 victory points.

Russo-Prussian losses totalled 161 points of MR (see table below).
French-Allied troops held Mehltheuer, Baschütz and Preititz, giving 120 victory points.
Total = 281 victory points

Neither side controlled Litten.

The difference in victory points was 105, so, being in the range 100–150 (just!), was a marginal victory to the French-Allied side as determined by the victory conditions for the scenario.

The breaking of von Klüx’s brigade had opened up the north of the battlefield, but the loss of Litten to the French-Allied troops (due to Compans’ division breaking) evened up matters. A difference of 80 points to the French-Allied side, turned a tactical victory into a marginal one!

My impression was that all players were happy with the game and we all enjoyed the spectacle. It had been played out as a hard fought game but always in the ‘right’ way—as fortunately all our games seem to be.

It was also pleasing that, apart from some of the ‘accounting’ problems on the Russo-Prussian side, it worked playing a large game over three sessions, spanning two months.

This brought to a conclusion our games for the bicentennial of the 1813 campaign—having decided earlier this year to be less ambitious and defer our ‘bicentennial’ game of Leipzig until 2016. In the end we managed only the two big battles of the spring campaign, this one and Lützen, but what games they were!

For this year our tentative programme of bicentennial games is La Rothiere in February, Craonne in March,Toulouse in April and Chippewa or Lundy’s Lane in July.

von Müffling, BC (1997) The Memoirs of Baron von Müffling, A Prussian Officer In The Napoleonic Wars. Napoleonic Library (Book 31). Greenhill Books, London, UK. 517 pp.