Monday 30 January 2017

Battle for the Linth Valley, Nefels-Mollis , 1 October 1799

This week's game with John 'The Red' was an attempt to refight the Russian victory in the Linth Valley as they continued their 'strategic withdrawal' north to link up with the Austrians. Earlier in the day the Russians had broken into the valley at the village of Netstal and driven the French off, only to encounter them again in the late afternoon. This was a relatively small game, as I was able to recreate both armies in their entirety (well almost) without having to scale the number of units down, so General Prince Pyotr Bagration's force consisted of two battalions of Jager, four of combined grenadiers and six of musketeers, supported by three sections of ex-Piedmontese 2pdr mountain guns and several sotnias of mounted and dismounted Cossacks. The French were under the command of General de Brigade Honore Theodore Gazan. Deployed in and around the settlement were four battalions of infantry and two sections of 8pdr guns. Marching to support them were a battalion of combined grenadiers, a regiment of chasseurs a cheval, two sections of 4pdr horse artillery and four more battalions of infantry. The question was, would the numerically superior Russians be able to break through the French on the table before they were reinforced? Back in 1799 they did, and also drove off the reinforcing troops. In 2017 it proved to be somewhat different!

The river was impassable except at the bridge between the two villages and the little streams were steep-sided and only passable by infantry; cavalry and guns had to cross using the fords. The thickly-wooded hills were steep and reduced movement to a quarter for close order troops and a half for skirmishers. John chose to be the French, and deployed his troops to cover both roads entering the valley.

 The French. One battalion and a gun on the eastern side of the river, with two battalions and the other gun on the western side. One battalion was held in reserve.
 The Leading Russian units arrive; two battalions of the 7th Jager covering the advance of two battalions of the Rosenberg (Moscow) Grenadier Regiment. In support is a section of mountain guns.
 General Lomonosov's four combined grenadier battalions are next to arrive, with two more sections of mountain guns in support. Out of sight (beyond the trees in the distance) on the eastern road are all the Cossacks.
 French chasseurs a chervil and horse artillery appear at the north end of the valley.
 Russian grenadiers push the French back from the stream while jager occupy the farm to their left. 
 The leading elements of a further six battalions of Russians arrive on the western road. That was my mistake. I will explain later.
 The ex-Piedmontese mountain guns deploy ready to bombard (lol!) the French over the river.
 The Russians stacking up nicely ready to assault the French position.
 Four more battalions of French en route to join their comrades.
 The French horse artillery deployed alongside the 8pdr section where they could enfilade the Russian columns with impunity.
 The battle at about turn 8. The French reinforcements have all arrived and the Russian advance is starting to run out of steam in the face of determined resistance.
 The situation is livened up somewhat by a furious bayonet charge by the Rosenberg (Moscow) Grenadiers. The French closing fire was ineffective and although they held their own for the first round of melee they had to take a break test and routed. Hurrah!!!

 The Russians then continued forward and assaulted the village which was held by a slightly battered battalion of infantry. The Russians were on a roll and again forced the French to take a break test, and again they routed, leaving the village in the hands of the twice victorious if now slightly dented grenadiers.
The Russians made several attacks but each was driven back. This was the final attempt, which like the others, failed miserably. Beset by artillery in their flanks the Russian columns were decimated. I therefore conceded defeat, er, accepted a minor setback, for the Russians.

My mistake of course was not employing infantry on the eastern side of the river. My Cossacks could make no headway against the single French battalion facing them as they were holding the only crossing point where the road spanned the impassable (to cavalry) stream. My reserve division of six musketeer battalions would have made short work of the French and would then have been able to head for the bridge over the Linth, diverting French reinforcements in the process. That would have forced the French on the western side of the river to retreat or face being cut off. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I knew from turn 2 that my best chance of winning the game had been lost. 

Historically the Russian rearguard had routed the pursuing French at Muotatal (see earlier post), while Bagration had been mauling with Molitor and Gazan's troops along the length of the Linth valley, eventually pushing them aside. There would be more clashes with the French before Suvarov's army reached safety, and I intend to play them all out over the next few weeks, as well as the one or two that I've missed but can do now I have some Austrians.

I'm still happy to use Black Powder for this project, in the absence of anything better really. We managed around 16 turns which is pretty good as we were playing for about 4 hours. Good game.

Thursday 26 January 2017

Mule Train!

During Suvorov's campaign in Switzerland he was woefully short of artillery. The field artillery that'd operated with his army while campaigning in Northern Italy had been sent by a different route back into Switzerland and Upper Germany so the only guns at his disposal were a couple of dozen ex-Piedmontese mountain guns. These were normally transported on mules but the shortage of suitable draft animals was so dire that the Russians were forced to 'request' that many of the Cossacks give up their ponies (which were their own personal property) in order that the guns and sufficient provisions and fodder could be carried to supply the army.

 A few years ago I nearly started a 1st Carlist War project in 28mm using the excellent Perry figures but although I painted up most of the figures I just couldn't get enthused so sold it all on eBay. I did however keep my mule-born mountain guns for a rainy day. I even managed to lay my hands on them  in the bottom of the 'box of doom' as well!

I already have the gun crews done, as indeed are the deployed pieces, but I am pleased with the way this battery has turned out. I doubt they will be much good in a game though, well they are only one and a half pounders! Ive not found out what colour Piedmontese pieces were painted so I've gone for a dark red. I doubt the Russians would have repainted them.

 Moving on, some Russian generals trying to work out how to get over the Alps (Foundry figures)
 The next few pictures are of my latest Cossack sotnia. With the exception of the female and the guy on foot they are all Crusader miniatures. The chap on foot is a Foundry SYW Cossack and the female is a figure I picked up off eBay a while ago.

I will now get back to more Austrians and my final battalion of Russian jager. 

Sunday 22 January 2017

French Revolutionary War Austrians

 This is my first Austrian infantry battalion for my FRW project. I've not decided which regiment it will represent yet. The figures are from Elite Miniatures and the 'slap and dip' speed painting method works well on them I think.

 I am in the middle of finishing off a battery of Austrian artillery (done the crews but not the cannon) and then I shall be starting work on another Austrian infantry battalion, and some more Russians.

Also just completed is a Warbases "engineers' wagon". Its dead easy to put together and looks the part.

Monday 16 January 2017

French Heavy Cavalry: French Revolutionary War 1799 Project

Now, I know that there were no French heavy cavalry involved in attempting to stop Suvorov in Switzerland in 1799 but I don't care. These three squadrons will do for the undoubted expansion of this little project into the Italian campaign of 1799 (Trebbia, Novi etc.) or even to the abortive Anglo-Russian campaign in Flanders in 1799.  The figures are all Trent Miniatures and although on the chunky side I do rather like them. Easy to paint too. 

The top and bottom photos show two squadrons of heavy cavalry from different regiments. I am organising my French mounted troops as mainly single squadron regiments, mainly to reflect the poor state of French revolutionary cavalry regiments and also so I can have a little variety. The middle photo is of the 8th Cavalry, the only regiment of heavy cavalry to wear a cuirass at this time.

Tuesday 10 January 2017

The Battle of Minden refought.

I had a full house today for the refight of Minden. Paul T came up early to set up the battle using his extensive and venerable 15mm collection of figures and terrain. Also present were Dave Jarvis, Conrad Cairns and Paul Stevenson so we were set for what turned out to be an excellent game.  I decided to umpire as I was most familiar with the rules (Honours of War), and I also provided unbiased advice to the Allies, played by Conrad and Dave. The two Pauls were the French.

Paul had organised the game and worked out the orders of battle (at about one unit on the table for every three in the real battle) and the troop and commander characteristics. The French were hampered by both their senior commanders (Broglie and Contades) being classed as 'dithering', i.e. no use whatsoever and actually a potential hindrance to the French plans, while Frederick of Brunswick was 'Dashing'. It was going to be a game where quality, (the Allies) would be pitted against quantity (the French). That's apart from the command of Sackville of course, in charge of the English horse, who, to reflect his abysmal performance in 1759 was to prove, for a while at least, to be almost impossible to move, effectively denying the Allies a good 25% of their mounted troops.

 The Allied army (in the foreground) facing the much larger French forces of Broglie and Contades. Sackville's command is on the right of the Allied line. To their left is the brigade of English infantry and the Hanoverian Guard.
 Massed French cavalry in the centre.
 Conrad ordered his entire centre and right to advance while Dave demonstrated against the French right. Sackville refused to move.
 The French cavalry in the centre are not well placed to deal with the infantry attack which is developing to their front.....and getting closer! Sackville refused to move.
 The Allies decided to keep much of their artillery limbered up so they could push it closer to the French line before unlimbering.
 The extreme right of the Allied line about to be enfiladed by the French.
 The Hanoverian brigade in the centre above and the Hessians just visible to their left are under fire from French artillery and the Hessians were taking heavy casualties. Under concentrated canister and musket fire the Hessians and Brunswick brigades were battered and broken in quick succession.

 In the centre the Hanoverian Guard and the English infantry were taking heavy casualties as they advanced straight at the French massed cavalry. Sackville refused to move.
 The French cavalry charged, and although they survived the closing fire one regiment was broken in the ensuing melee and the other driven back. Both English battalions were forced to withdraw, which they did under fire but over the course of the next couple of turns were able to skillfully and safely extricate themselves and recover. 
 On the French right Paul T (Broglie) was stuck due to the dithering nature of his commander but did manage to start shifting troops into the centre, albeit very slowly. The engagement on this flank remained somewhat static as the Allies didn't have the strength to push forward as Dave's horse was moved to the centre to plug the gap where the Hessians and Brunswickers had been. They too lost heavily to the French artillery.
 Sackville actually MOVED! In fact over the course of the last six turns or so he moved three times! It was all too late to influence the game though.
 Broglie stripping the right flank to plug the widening hole in the French centre.

 Conrad had reformed the Hanoverian and English infantry, driving off the remains of the French infantry in the centre in the process. The Saxon contingent in the French army closed slowly with the Anglo/Hanoverian line but made little impression. French artillery enfiladed a Hanoverian battalion which was broken but the line held as Dave moved his horse forward to fill the gap.
 The Allied centre holding their ground with great skill, and not a little good fortune.

 The position at the end of the battle. The Allies are poised to smash the Saxons and create a mass withdrawal of the French centre and the cavalry supporting it. The superior Hanoverian Guards and the English fully reformed and about to advance and undoubtedly drive all before them as they had earlier in the game.
"Le Plongeur" the French barge on the river. This was a nod to the refight of Minden we (Me, Paul T and members of the Durham club fought in about 1984) in 28mm where the Allies were obsessed with trying to sink this boat even though it was no threat to them.

We ended the game at this point declaring a victory for the Allies. The French had taken significantly more casualties and units broken and there was little likelihood that they would be able to stem the Allied advance in the centre. The result reflected the historical outcome rather well.

Everyone had a thoroughly enjoyable day in a very tough and tense game. I have to admit that with the collapse of two Allied brigades in the centre before lunch (about turn 3 or 4) I thought it was all over for Conrad and Dave but they proved that English and German soldiers are worth their weight in gunpowder when facing the badly led army of France and its Saxon hangers on. The rules worked really well and the doubts I had some weeks ago have dispersed. They are definitely more subtle than Black Powder even if they can be just as brutal, and ok, artillery is rather effective, but so it should be if you advance straight towards it! You have only yourself to blame when your men run away. The command and control, manoeuvring, shooting and close combat all worked and 'felt' right, and the rules were easy to pick up and follow. Importantly,  neither Conrad nor Paul S had ever played a game using Honours of War, and even Dave and Paul T had only used them a few times but they picked them up very quickly. For a big game such as this they were ideal as we managed 12 or 13 turns in around three and a half hours of play.

Thanks to Paul T for bringing all his stuff up so we could fight the game at 'Carryings On HQ' and for organising everything really effectively, and for Conrad for bringing Dave and Paul S.

Sunday 8 January 2017

Rearguard action at Muotatal: Suvarov's campaign in Switzerland October 1st 1799

A week after forcing the St Gothard pass and the action over the famous Devil's Bridge and then successfully containing the French at the action at Altdorf on  26 September Marshall Suvarov learned that the army of General Rimski-Korsakov had been decisively beaten at Zurich. After some debate as to what action to take in the light of this news Suvarov decided that his army would continue its march north east through Switzerland to join with the Austrian corps of GM Linken at Glarus, 50km away through a series of passes and defiles. Prince Rosenberg's corps of two divisions was ordered to delay the progress of the French west of the village of Muotatal to prevent them from interfer with the Russian withdrawal through the mountains. At the same time Massena became aware of the Russian army near Muotatal and ordered his forces to attack. The closest French troops were the division of General Mortier. On 30 September Mortiers  leading troops from the 108er Demi-brigade were roughly handled by the Russians. The following day Mortier brought up the remainder of his division, to contact and overwhelm the Russian rearguard. Well, that was the plan.....

The Muotatal River Valley is generally level ground, with several chokepoints, the first being where the steep and thickly wooded Zingelwald Heights meet the valley, and the second is where the wooded Rombach stream flows into the valley from the south. The valley floor was used for farming , orchards and grazing and was dotted with typical Swiss wood and stucco farms and walled fields.The swift-running Muotata stream was very difficult to cross and for this game can only be crossed at the bridges and ford. The lesser streams can be crossed by infantry but are too steeply banked for cavalry and artillery to get across. Fields, orchards and the lower slopes of the mountains are classed as difficult ground. The woods are thick  and can only be entered in skirmish order and only by infantry.

The troops are detailed below. We used Black Powder with the amendments I mentioned in the previous post.  This was a relatively small battle so I was able to use a 1:1 ratio for historical units present and those on the table. The terrain was as close as I could get it to the real valley.

Russian forces under General Prince Rosenberg(9)

Advance guard brigade Miloradovich (8): 1 btn of jager and 1 section of artillery
Main body Division Miloradovich under GM Mansurov (8): 6 btns of infantry
Division Forster (9): 6 btns of infantry, 1 of jager and 2 sections of artillery
Brigade Denisov (9)): 2 squadrons of mounted Cossacks and 1 unit of dismounted Cossacks

None of Suvorov's grenadier battalions were present at this engagement, as they were with Bagration's division and the main body breaking through the French in the army's path as it continued its advance, but as I don't quite have enough musketeer battalions I had to make do with what I had and substitute some grenadiers to make up the numbers.

French force under General Mortier (8)

Brigade Droet (8): 100th and 108th Demi-Brigades (6 btns), 1st Dragoons, 1 battery of artillery
Brigade Brunet (8): 50th and 53rd Demi Brigades (6 btns), 1 battery of artillery

All the French are classed as veteran ('Crack' in the rules) with the exception of the 108th Demi-Brigade.

My friend and recent convert Peter came down the hill on Saturday evening to refight this battle. We fought it down the length of the table, with Russians already deployed at three points down the valley, and the French entering from the southern table edge over the course of the first three moves either side of the big 'Alp' in the background on the photo above and on the road from the right leading to the bridge.
 The Russians deployed in three lines await the French attack.
 My newest regiment of two battalions in greatcoats. These are Eureka minis and not yet included on the catalogue. The flags are by the Flag Dude.
 The Russian second line.
 The Russian first line, a battalion of jager and a section of light artillery.
 The leading French troops arrive under Mortier. Peter didn't manage much in the way of a low enough command roll so both leading units were stuck in march column. The infantry battalion suffered for it and were shaken and disordered by fire from the jager and the light cannon.
 Peter then ordered his dragoons to charge the jager but they failed to get more than one move so were unable to change formation and charge to contact. Two more battalions of Mortier's command advanced and deployed to take the gun and jager in the flank.
 More French troops (three battalions and a gun) appeared around the back of the mountain, making use of a track through the craggy hillside. Obviously an attempt to outflank the Russians.
 I pushed my cossacks forward to slow down the French advance but got too close and were badly shot up by the leading French battalion. 
 The French horse artillery can just be seen in the lower right corner moving to deploy and enfilade the Russians. The remaining artillery deployed on the road but their fire, combined with that of the French infantry was enough to wipe out the Russian artillery in pretty short order.

 Peter pushed his infantry forward to avoid masking his guns. I made a 'follow me' order with my divisional commander and charged his infantry in the flank. I failed to break them and in the next turn was charged in my flank by the French. What followed was a long protracted melee where both sides were unable to break the other.
 More Russians from the second line being led forward by the CinC while the guns from the reserves deployed on the road.
 My CinC then managed another 'follow me' order and led a battalion into the flank of the French. Eventually, the French forced my original battalion to take a break test and it was forced to withdraw, but one of the French battalions was broken.
 Meanwhile the French horse artillery had deployed across the river and began taking ineffective pot shots at the Russian artillery, which returned equally ineffective fire.
 We polished off a couple of big bottles of Leffe Christmas Ale during the game. Very nice.
 Meanwhile my Cossack cavalry had been driven back but the dismounted Cossacks were being very annoying in the woods. Peter deployed two battalions to try and drive them off, but several bayonet charges failed to do anything other than force the Cossacks to evade.
 The Cossacks slowly pulling back.
 Other Cossacks are too busy looting one of the farms.

 The Russian third line didn't move at all during the game. Their commander had moved forward with the guns and the CinC was embroiled in a ferocious melee.
 The Russian second line is left leaderless as both the divisional commander and the CinC were tied up in combat.
 The Russian artillery deployed facing the French over the river.
 The Russians were facing a massed battery of French artillery in what was a very unequal confrontation.
At this point the French centre collapsed and no amount of exhorting by the CinC could get the remainder of the troops to move. Peter threw in the towel although the French were by no means totally defeated and now their artillery were in position they would have been able to concentrate their fire on the Russian infantry with impunity. Nevertheless it would have taken more time than we had left to play and the Russians had successfully delayed the French for 12 turns.

I can't say I enjoyed the game 100%, as the French tactics were wrong and played to the strengths of the Russians. The French artillery ought to have been brought up earlier to blast a way through the Russian infantry in order for their own infantry and cavalry to push forward towards the village. I don't give the Russians first fire and they only shoot with 2 dice as musketry wasn't their strongest point and Suvorov was very much an advocate of the bayonet. They are very tough in melee though, so need to be softened up before trying to beat them in hand to hand combat, which feels about right.

Anyway, I made a mistake with in the game which was unfavourable to the French as I forgot that the Russians were not stubborn as they had an extra point of stamina instead. This made a big difference and would have probably tipped the big confused melee in favour of the French, but its difficult sometimes keeping your opponent 'right', not letting them make too many mistakes, and after a couple of pints of 6.8% beer. I have therefore declared the game null and void.

On Tuesday I shall be relighting Minden in 15mm as Paul is bringing his collection along for what will be a large and no doubt challenging game. Finally, Peter is coming down again next Saturday for the next battle in the Swiss campaign. I hope I will get the rules right this time!