Well, another Saturday and another game in the campaign. By the end of week one (here) it was evident that both sides had psyched themselves into thinking they were outclassed and/or outnumbered and going to be overwhelmed by the other. In fairness the dice had more to do with it but I think a more ‘in period’ narrative is Far more fun and appropriate. 🤔😉
So. Turn one this week and the unexpected (except by me and their actual real commander, not Mike who is only Conde) Emigre division of Le Comte d’Artois (Originally en route to join the Army of the Conde) began to arrive behind the right flank of the French (I know the Emigres are French as well but I’ll call them Emigres and the revolutionary army French, or it gets complicated). There were two brigades of Emigre infantry and one of cavalry. All the brigades were a mix of mainly ‘line’ with a couple of ‘elite’ units and several of ‘recruits’. Half of the cavalry were only small units as well so a right hodgepodge. Their artillery hadn’t been able to keep up so didn’t figure in the game and would only arrive once all the Emigres were on the table.
After manoeuvring through the Prussian camp last week the Saxon cuirassiers were well placed to attack the French in the centre, which they duly did. (Eagle-eyed readers may spot that I removed two tent sections after almost 1000 heavy cavalry men trampled their way through the encampment). One of their regiments were stunned by the bravery of a French volunteer battalion which stood firm in the face of their charge and failed to close to contact, instead retiring behind their infantry, but another quickly broke one battalion, cut through the French brigade, rode over a limbered artillery company which was destroyed, swept on over a second that was ridden down, and then hit a company of horse artillery in the rear where the gunners were cut down.
On the Coalition right the Prussian heavy cavalry failed a ‘faltering brigade’ and retreated off the table, gone for good. Any hope of the Prussians rolling up the French left wing went with them. In the centre the Prussians made heavy going as they tried to advance through the encampment towards the French centre/ left. By the end of the game the Prussians weren’t really putting the French left under any pressure, and were taking a bit of a hammering from the French artillery in the process.
On the Coalition left the Saxon cheveau-legers and hussars were held back in reserve and the artillery continued its deadly work demolishing the attacking French who were forced to retreat. The Saxons in the centre attacked, charging the French, who in turn also went on the offensive. However luck was on the side of the Saxons and they drove the French infantry back. As usual attacks in column failed against an undamaged line, which seems a reasonable outcome.
At two points during the game we had three faltering French brigades. The first time they either obeyed orders or rallied, but the second was less positive. While none of them ran away they did have to retire, and with the Emigres coming up on the rear this was going to be difficult. I’ll halt now and let the photos and supporting captions show what happened.
|At the start of turn one the Saxon cuirassiers hit the French columns in the flank.|
|Meanwhile the French launched two columns at a fresh Saxon regiment. Not surprisingly the French were bundled back in disarray.|
|On the French right, their infantry were taking a pounding from the Saxon artillery but had driven the Saxons out of the woods.|
|The French heavy cavalry made a risky about face in response to the arrival of the leading Émigré brigade and the French were in danger of being the proverbial jam in the sandwich.|
|The Prussians advancing through the encampment.|
|Two companies of 12pdrs covered the gap between the two woods very effectively, with the Prussians unable to risk an attack down that route.|
|The battlefield from the kitchen (western) edge, after the French attack was halted and the survivors retreated.|
|The Emigre cavalry were the second brigade to appear in the French rear They weren't generally very good even compared to the French but there were lots of them. The French right wing was now in deep trouble.|
|The bottomless void that the French appeared to be falling into.|
|The Emigre cavalry charged the rear of the French columns but amazingly were beaten off. However the Emigres also charged the artillery on windmill hill and overran it from the rear.|
|This picture is out of sequence but shows the end of one isolated French battalion that was unable to retreat with the rest of its brigade as it was surrounded. The battalion downed arms and surrendered.|
|The French right wing before they were ordered to halt their attack on the Saxons.|
|Just another shot of the Prussians marching through their own camp as they attacked the French left.|
|The French heavy cavalry tried to drive off the Emigres but failed and were forced to pull back.|
|Confusion in the French centre with enemy to their front, rear and left flanks. The French right was at this point faltering (all three brigades) but they didn't run.|
|The French Carabiniers had no choice other than to charge the Saxon cuirassiers even though they were carrying almost maximum casualties. They hit but in the melee took enough damage to see them disperse.|
|The remaining French heavy cavalry were now all but surrounded by the Coalition army. They attempted to cut their way off the battlefield while the infantry in the photo withdrew to the village where they later surrendered.|
|The Emigre cavalry after ridding down the French gunners on Windmill Hill. It was the end for the French army.|
The implications for the Republic of this crushing French defeat are significant. Although the Coalition forces were unable to prevent the withdrawal of the French light cavalry, one brigade of infantry and the reserve artillery, the other two brigades of infantry and one of heavy cavalry were broken or captured. One brigade withdrew to the village but were ultimately forced to surrender. The other infantry brigade was pursued by the Emigres and all but ceased to exist, while the remaining heavy cavalry did manage to cut their way though the Emigre cavalry, again with very heavy losses. The French also lost 18 guns and after chucking the usual D20 a few times a number of general officers were killed, wounded or captured in the retreat. As were some Coalition ones in the pursuit. By some stroke of good fortune, the attached Representative of the People has not so far managed to find the safety of Lannoy, and it is to be assumed that General Marceau-Desgravieres is rather grateful for this misfortune. Of course, there's always later in the evening or the next day.
Coalition losses were certainly quite heavy, mainly among the heavy cavalry brigades and the Prussian musketeer brigade. The performance of the Prussian artillery had been yet again abysmal while that of the Saxons was good. The Prussians were in no position to pursue as a result of their losses, and the Saxons were simply in the wrong position to pursue effectively and instead concentrated on capturing the brigade taking refuge in the village. The Emigres pursued gleefully taking some measure of revenge against their implacable foes. The shattered French Army of the Scarpe withdrew to Lannoy but is in a sorry state. I now have to tell their real life commander what Shaun, Richard and Steve did to his army. I have to say that knowing what I did about the wider scenario the Coalition COULD and perhaps SHOULD have defeated the French last week but the French HAD to defeat the Coalition last week, and the battle was probably lost at the point. The psychology of wargaming is always fascinating. As I’ve alluded to earlier, all the players on both sides seem to have psyched themselves into fearing the imagined and in some cases unfounded abilities of their enemy. Not unlike reality.
However, we must now turn the clock back a couple of hours and move to the rearguard action the Coalition are fighting against the advance of Generals Pichegru and Jourdan. If the rearguard fail to stop them the French will arrive behind the currently victorious Prussians and Saxons in approximately two to four game turns from the end of the battle we’ve just completed, with the Coalition forces spread all over the table (and off it) engaged in mopping up the defeated Army of the Scarpe. You remember I said this was complicated? We shall play the rearguard action next week.
Many thanks to everyone for taking part. The technology worked very well this week, especially with the addition of a third camera covering the entire table, for which I must thank my techy wife Katherine who made it all work after much hard work. I am still firmly in favour of General d’Armee although have to admit that playing such a large game remotely is sometimes quite slow and stressful. Everyone, especially the French, who were this week on a hiding to nothing, played the game in good spirits. Thanks too to Conrad for coming down to help move the figures.
Not long after the game ended I settled down to enjoy another 90 minutes with the Virtual Wargames Group and had some great crack with its international membership effortlessly steered by Phil Olley. Another very good Saturday of wargaming.