Saturday’s game was a French Revolutionary Wars battle set in the Vendee in 1795. A small force of Emigrees, supported by regular English(Scots mainly) troops, had landed and seized a small port with a deep enough anchorage for troop transports. The Emigre aim had been to join with local Vendean forces of L’Armee Catholique et Royale and provide some support to the present uprising in the hope that the rebellion against the Republic would spread. The English had their own agenda of course. They port was a haven for privateers so had to be dealt with, and everything of a maritime nature had either been burnt, wrecked or carried off back to the RN squadron standing offshore. The small fort that dominated the anchorage also needed taking and blowing up, especially as it contained a telegraph (and the codes) linking it to Nantes and beyond. The Emigres had failed to secure the fort during the initial landing so guns had been landed from the ships to batter the fort into submission.
The Republicans responded slowly to the landing and by the time of their arrival the organised looting and pillaging had been done. The English contingent were waiting for a fair wind to facilitate their embarkation and departure once the fort was taken. More importantly the local Vendeans had flocked to the town to join with the Emigre forces in their thousands. I allowed the Coalition forces to deploy pretty much anywhere on the table apart from the four feet along the eastern end. The Republicans would be marching on here and would have to fight their way across the river (in reality it was not an obstacle) then down the length of the table to reach the coast. Both armies had a mixture of extremely good, run-of-the-mill and frankly terrible units so it was going to be fun.
|The French had to attack down the length of the table torch the coast. The commander of the two British/English brigades stops for a cuppa.|
John (Gen de Div Henri de Bouzzille) and Richard (Gen de Bde Hercule Trécon) commanded the Republicans while Paul was the Comte d’Hervilly, commander of the Emigre forces and also overall commander of the expedition. Conrad, as General Ambercrumble, took the two English brigades (one each of infantry and cavalry) while Mike was the Vendean commander General Francois Aimée Voulaizunlezotre.
As usual I will let the photos of the game tell the story. We again used General d’Armee which are fast becoming my favorite rule set for this period.
|The 5th and 79th Foot supporting the line of vended skirmishers.|
|The construction of defences to provide cover for the RN guns and crew landed from the fleet continues throughout the battle.|
|A battery of Emigre artillery (Rotalier's) holding the main line of defence.|
|Herding the sheep is a small battalion of Emigres, the Sale-Kirchberg Light Infantry|
|The French advance rapidly across the shallow river and past the inland telegraph station.|
|John's skirmishers press ahead against the Vendeans. It was interesting trying to classify the various Vendean units as per the rules, but it worked ok, More later on this.|
|Richard's French cavalry brigade on the right.|
|The commander of the Vendee first line was killed following a 'destiny' role. The Grim Reaper approaches to take his prize. The Vendean gunners were also driven off, abandoning their cannon.|
|A French brigadier leading from the front! En Avant Mes Braves! |
|HM 5th Foot (Northumberland Regiment) occupying the village. I'd classed them as recruit on the basis that many English regiments, especially those returning from the W Indies, were topped up with volunteers from the militia and fencibles |
|The French cavalry drove off the Vendean skirmishers|
|The main body of the Vendean contingent.|
|The Royal Navy unloading stores, or are the getting ready for an evacuation?|
|The Royal Emigrants, certainly the best of the Emigrés involved in this battle.|
|John deciding the best way through the enemy lines while I check something in the rules.....|
|I missed the action here but the Emigre hussars charged the French cavalry but in the charge resolution phase the Emigres pulled up and retired in the face of the French counter charge.|
|The unenthusiastic Emigre hussars after their aborted charge. |
|In the centre things are hotting up.|
|The Vendean infantry in the rear begin to move up to support the first line of defence.|
|The RN hauling another cannon towards the emplacements facing the fort.|
|HM 92nd Foot line the hedges in the face of the French attack as they take casualties from the enemy skirmishers. The French columns charge the Highlanders, who break and run!|
|Silence from the town as HM 5th Foot take a siesta.|
|The French in the centre press on over the hedgerows just occupied by the Highlanders.|
|HM 92nd Foot are running away (they actually moved behind the town as that was the safer option and would allow them to rally. However, their rout made the English/Highland brigade faltering. Conrad threw a 1, so it was 'save qui peut!' as the remainder of the brigade retreated.|
|The French centre is now free to launch an assault on the Emigres on the next ridgeline. while one battalion occupies the town.|
|Suddenly the Vendean cavalry declared a charge, driving off the enemy skirmishers and charging on against the leading French column. They survived closing fire and actually got into contact, but were beaten off and forced to retire.|
|The French dragoons also tried a charge against the Damas Legion infantry in square but predictably bounced.|
|The French centre.|
|The French left were free to advance once the Highlanders facing them were forced to retreat. Whether they'd get far is doubtful as there were two regiments of English light dragoons about two foot to their front. |
That was the end of the game as we had run out of time. Before announcing the result, here are some photos that have become out of sequence. I show them here to help fill out some of the details of the game.
|Paul managed to occupy the farm with a unit of Emigre light infantry for the entire game, and they played havoc with any units that passed them. They were a menace that should have been dealt with much sooner in the game as they contributed to the destruction of two batteries of French artillery deployed close by.|
|The main line of resistance, Emigre regiments (some quite small) supported by a battery of artillery. The latter played merry hell with the French cavalry and gunners close to the farm mentioned in the last caption. They did however manage to inflict several fatigue casualties on themselves 4 or 5 I think.|
|The first line before their hasty departure; Vendean skirmishers supported by two battalions of Highlanders and an English battalion in the town. |
|The French coastal fort complete with telegraph station. They were in touch with the main French body throughout the battle due to the other telegraph station close by the bridge at the other end of the table. |
|The French cavalry brigade advancing |
|The French attack develops slowly.|
|The Highland brigade's skirmish screen before they were wiped out by enemy fire. The brigade itself was to run soon afterwards.|
|General mayhem among the Emigres and the Vendean troops surge forward in one choking mass! |
|The port. The RN have landed seamen and marines to help defend the town, or re-embark the stores on the quayside..|
So, the Coalition forces had done quite well in slowing down the French attack. The cost however was high as one Vendean commander (Louis, Comte de Cause-Perdu) had been killed, his brigade had routed and the Scots brigade had faltered then run for their lives in the face of the enemy onslaught. (NB my two Scots battalions, the 79th and 92nd Foot, have a long history of running away in these Vendee-set games). Once the Highlanders had broken the way was open for a general French advance. The English light dragoons could do little other than either hold their ground and eventually be boxed in due to the terrain, or make a break for the port. The Emigre line along the hill would most likely have held for some time but risked being outflanked, while the massed Vendean peasantry would no doubt have charged the oncoming French columns and probably been ridden down by the enemy cavalry in the process. Who knows? I might try it out and see what might have happened. A victory of sorts therefore for the French and the Republic, especially as their long lost flanking force would have turned up at some point soon to clinch victory. (The French had chosen to send a demi-brigade of light infantry on a flank march on their right flank. They got terribly lost and never made it to the table. I have an admission to make in that whichever brigade the French chose for the flanking march, it would have become lost, so it was fortunate that they selected a small one of three battalions. Aren't I wicked). Its likely that the fleeing Scots brigade (well, most of them) and the light dragoons minus horses would have been safely evacuated while the Emigres and Vendeans held the enemy off in a desperate rearguard action with only one likely result.
I must admit to putting the visual aspect of the game before playability when setting it up, but in the end nothing (I don't think) suffered. We managed sixteen turns between 10.30'ish and 16.00, so the game certainly flowed quickly, and the rules were only consulted where something cropped up that we'd never come across in previous games.
Big thanks to everyone for coming and playing the game in the usual enthusiasm and good humour, and special note of thanks to Mike for the cakes, Richard for the scones and many of these photos, and Conrad for the pop. Hopefully everyone enjoyed the game.