It’s extra time in this important grudge match between the Hapsburgs and the French. It’s still all in the balance and could go either way. Many of the units have become pretty battered after a dozen or so turns of fierce fighting and both sides have deployed their ‘finishers’ leaving no available reserves to tip the balance either way. Conrad von Bredow's Death Ride from last time had overrun or driven off two entire brigades of French, including some of their best infantry and almost half their cavalry. Would this success be exploited? Well, read on to find out. Anyone needing to be reminded of the state of play at the end of the last session can click Here.
As usual the photos will tell the story of how the final stages of the game unfolded. Campaign time it was now noon, and the armies had been at it since 5.30 am.
|The Austrians were suffering from gridlock on the road to Inglemunster, and were in danger of buckling under the relentless assault by the French.|
|Steve ordered his infantry to assault the French redoubt. The first attack was driven back.|
|The two units of retreating Austrian uhlans. It was all very unfortunate for the Austrians really, as up to that point they were in the ascendancy. The dice had truly turned against them.|
|Dave had two position batteries attached to his grenadier brigade. They spent almost the entire game limbered up with nowhere to go as a result of the previously mentioned gridlock.|
|Despite this golden opportunity the Austrian heavy cavalry were unable to roll up the French infantry and were forced to withdraw.|
|A large gap had opened in the centre of the table.|
|The wholly anachronistic Polish Legion pressing hard against the Austrian line.|
|The Poles charged the Austrians and drove them back. At the same time the Austrian heavy cavalry and uhlans failed a 'faltering brigade' test and fled.|
|Retreating Hungarian infantry. The brigade this regiment belonged to was demoralised as half its units had dispersed.|
|The lack of space for the Austrian grenadiers to deploy is evident here. |
|A second attack by the French captures the redoubt. The defenders broke and the entire Austrian 3rd brigade, together with the 2nd failed faltering brigade tests and ran.|
|The Austrian dragoons seemed less than enthusiastic, and were slowed by the terrain.|
|Two brigades of fleeing Austrians.|
|Dave unlimbered his position batteries to cover the grenadiers and bombard the French in the captured redoubt. |
At this point Conrad decided that the army and the campaign would be best served by retiring back into Courtrai as the attempted breakout had clearly failed. Campaign time it was 2.30 pm so we'd had a leisurely 15 turns over three Saturdays. Half the Austrian army was fleeing back to Courtrai. Casualties had been heavy, including the loss of many guns. I played through the retirement to see which Austrians would make it back to the safety of Courtrai. I decided that with French skirmishers within 6" of the baggage there was no way it would escape capture and return safely to Courtrai. The Austrian dragoons pulled back, covering the retreat of the 4th brigade, wisely not engaging with the French cavalry. The grenadiers found themselves cut off, and three battalions and their supporting artillery were captured, as was their commander. Two battalions made it back to Courtrai.
So, a decisive French victory, albeit a very costly one. The remains of the Austrian army are now trapped in Courtrai, licking their wounds. Fortunately many of the fleeing troops had headed for Courtrai so some if not all units would be able to reform, at much reduced strengths. The Austrians had also lost four batteries of artillery which will be hard to replace given that two of the lost batteries had only just been brought up to strength after the defeat several days ago on the other side of the river.
The French lost heavily despite their victory. One infantry brigade was ridden down by the Austrian cuirassiers and two regiments of dragoons were dispersed by the Austrian uhlans. The army reserve of four elite battalions of combined grenadiers and ex-regular chasseurs were particularly badly hit. In fact many battalions were close to their dispersal point by the end of the combat.
The technology worked well and certainly added to the fog of war. This in some way explains the strange moves of the grenadier brigade which managed to get itself totally out of position and unable to take any part in the battle until the very end, by which time it was too late. The baggage train also got in the way of the Austrian defence and perhaps ought to have halted to wait until victory was certain or if not, that it wasn't too far from the city to return. The Austrians were very unlucky that their impressive cavalry charge couldn't be exploited, but c'est la guerre I guess. It was a good plan let down in its execution through lack of support and some odd manoeuvring, with more than a pinch of good luck for the French.
As far as the campaign is concerned the Austrians in Coutrai are out of it for a while but other Coalition forces are still in play. In every likelihood we shall find ourselves locked in battle again, very soon in fact. Will the French be able to exploit their success or will they crumble under the relentless pressure of facing fresh Coalition forces?