This scenario is a continuation of our previous game, St. Hilaire’s attack on Pratzen heights, which happened simultaneously and adjacent to this battle (http://www.nopat.fi/2013/sotapelit/black-powder-battle-report-austerlitz-part-1-pratzen-heights/).
As with the assault on Pratzen heights, the French objective in this mission is to occupy the ridge, which is dominated in this sector by an old vineyard. The objective for both sides is to control the vineyard after 8 turns. This time the combined Austro-Russian army is already in control of the vineyard while the numerically inferior but qualitatively superior French must drive them off.
The French commanders have command value 8 and all the troops are classed as elite (remove disorder on 4+). The Austro-Russians all had command value 7 and the Austrians particularly were quite crap as they were also unreliable (no actions on a command roll of 7). The Russians were quite stubborn so each of their battalions didn’t have to take its first break test.
Order of battle French:
CiC Général de Division Vandamme
Schiner’s brigade: 2 légère battalions
Ferrey’s brigade: 4 line battalions
Candas’ brigade: 4 line battalions
Were’s brigade: 2 line battalions
Artillery brigade: 2 batteries
Order of battle Allied:
CiC General of the Infantry Miloradovich
Berg’s brigade (Russian): 2 grenadier battalions, small skirmisher unit, 1 battery
Repninsky’s brigade (Russian): 2 line battalions, 1 battery
Rottermund’s brigade (Austrian): 6 line battalions, 2 line conscript battalions
Artillery brigade (Austrian): large battery
Possible reserves: 0-2 battalions of elite Semenovsky guards entering on turn 5 on a successful dice roll (depending on the Tsar’s inclination Miloradovich MAY receive 0, 1 or 2 battalions of these guards)
The battlefield was barren except for the densely packed vineyard dominating the ridge. The Russians were placed in lines in front of the the vineyard while the Austrians were behind on the reserve slope. The French would advance in their customary attack columns.
The French plan was to drive towards the center but to have a strong “right hook” of Candas’ and Were’s brigades which would outflank the Russians and roll up their line before the Austrians could move to engage. The plan was that once the Russians were caught in the pincer the built-up area of the vineyard would also be occupied and held by a single battalion until such a time as the bulk of the force were done with the Russians.
The French line is portrayed below. On the left are Schiner’s légère in skirmish formation tasked with delaying any counterattacks on that flank. Next is Ferrey’s brigade, then Were’s brigade (only 2 battalions) and finally Candas’ brigade. The lead elements of Ferrey’s and Were’s brigades had the battalion skirmishers drawn up front to mitigate some of the effects of the Russian artillery (a nasty prospect versus the densely packed columns).
The allied deployment:
Excluding Were’s brigade, the attack started out well with all units managing a rapid advance of three moves. The artillery set to bombarding their counterpart in the hope of disordering it and thereby protecting the columns. Similarly on the left the légère moved to engage the second Russian battery.
Candas urges his men forward: “On my boys – a rapid march now will save blood later!”
The Russians, sensing the danger attempt to move a battalion to protect their flank. However the proximity of the enemy means that the only battalion that manages to move makes a half-hearted shuffle to the left. The Austrians are content to let the Russians deal with the threat and fail to move.
On turn 2 the légère assaulted the Russian skirmishers. Unfortunately disorder caused by enemy fire and orders not being understood in the general confusion meant that Ferrey’s brigade would not assault the Russians this turn.
Things were going slightly better on the French right. Were’s battalion managed to catch up with the rest of the division while the two lead battalions from Candas’ brigade (1/46th and 2/46th) effected a successful formation change into battalion lines before wheeling to engage the Russian left flank. Unfortunately the two other battalions (57th line regiment) failed to move sufficiently to intercept the Austrian battery taking up positions on the 46th regiments flank (a successful move would have brought the battalions into a position where they could have fired on the still limbered guns and also drawn fire away from the exposed flank of the first battalions). The flanking fire was deadly and significantly this disordered both the Russian infantry and the guns – leaving them exposed to a flank attack next turn.
General Vandamme tried to interfere on the micro level and order a battalion from Ferrey’s brigade forward – blundering and ordering the battalion to make a rapid retreat!
The Allied turn saw once again abysmal failure on every level of the command chain. The Russians failed to maneuver with the French columns so close while the Austrians were still hesitant to “march to the sound of the guns” – despite General Miloradovich coming to personally order them forwards. The only silver lining was that the Austrian artillery on the ridge deployed in a strong position guarding the Allied flank and providing flanking fire on the French. This fire was deadly, but fortunately the Frenchmen held. Russian fire elsewhere did little damage, but the légère assaulting the Russian skirmishers were forced to retire.
Turn 3 saw the French flanking force assaulting the Russian flank. This was the only success though, as the two battalions from Candas’ brigade tasked with engaging the guns failed to move sufficiently yet again (slowed by the steep hill). A general assault on the left also failed due to poor commands and the difficult terrain slowing the attackers. In the center one of Were’s battalions was disordered by enemy fire while the other misunderstood the generals orders and made another retreat! What’s going on!?
The firing routed the Russian guns though and the outflanked Russian battalion took a thorough beating in the ensuing mêlée, but would not bread due to the Russian stoic rule.
The Austrians finally seemed to understand that there was a fight going on and decided to move. Unfortunately the slow going of the vineyard slowed their advance significantly. There was no other maneuver. There was a further exchange of volleys in the center but with the Russians cramped up two lines deep this was quite ineffective. The Austrian artillery continued to fire on the flank of the second battalion of the 46th regiment, which this time decided to sensibly withdraw some ways. The outflanked Russian battalion finally broke and fled from the mêlée.
Turn 4 finally saw an all-out assault by the French. On the left the Russian skirmish screen was assaulted and they subsequently evaded behind the line battalions. The légère moved forwards once again to engage the Russian artillery and protect the flank. Meanwhile a strong assault was launched at the weak Russian center. Yet again the two battalions from Candas’ brigade meant to engage the guns failed to act. The Russian defenders in the center were soundly beaten but once again stood their ground with the stoic rule.
The Allied turn was once again desultory, with no significant maneuvers or gains on their part. Furthermore, the Russian battalion holding the center was routed. The French were quick to pursue their advantage by moving a battalion from Were’s brigade to occupy the built-up area of the vineyard and a second battalion from Candas’ brigade to its vicinity. The three remaining battalions from Candas’ brigade took up linear formations to fire on the annoying Austrian battery holding the ridge. Meanwhile the bulk of Ferrey’s brigade assaulted the remaining Russian defenders while some other battalions were rallied in preparation for the next round of fighting. The French artillery started to move forwards.
The Austrian’s surprise at having the French occupy the vineyard and open fire on them turned quickly to rage, which was followed by an all-out assault on the vineyard. Finally they were engaged! In other good news (kind of) Tsar Alexander had deemed Miloradovich to be making a muck of things and ordered forwards two battalions of the elite Semenovsky guards. These moved to support the Russian right.
The Russian grenadiers reached the beleaguered front just in time to see the defenders cave in an retire en masse. The exchange of fire on the French right between the three battalions and the Austrian artillery continued ineffectively with little damage done to either side.
At the vineyard the hand to hand combat raged furiously. Over two rounds of combat the Austrians made several valiant assaults on the enclosed compound but with little progress and atrocious casualties. In the end the repeated efforts and the French counter-attack by a battalion of Candas’ brigade (with the man himself leading the assault) broke the Austrians back, with no fewer than 3 battalions routing in a disastrous turn of events!
While the fight at the vineyard was going on, the situation on the (former) Russian right was becoming even more confusing. There were several exchanges of volleys and especially the French battalions were disordered, had sustained a significant amount of casualties and were generally dispersed. The Russian grenadiers made a counter-attack that drove away some of the French, but the return fire from the French artillery which was just being brought up was deadly and effectively eliminated one battalion of the guards from the game. On the French right the three battalions were still scrambling with the Austrian guns, but with little to show for their efforts.
As the game was drawing to a close the Austrians were becoming desperate to take the vineyards. A second assault which was far weaker than the first was launched. It managed to rout the French battalion that was outside the enclosed area but the assault on the compound itself failed miserably. There was some more desperate fighting between the Russian grenadiers and the French, which ended in a stalemate before the Austro-Russians were forced to admit defeat and withdraw.
Another hard fought victory for the French, although they too had taken a severe beating. The game continued in the vein of the first Austerlitz game with the elite French maneuvering and performing well in the face of superior numbers, the Russians defending stubbornly and the Austrians generally failing to make their numbers count.
The turning point came with the Austrian assault on the vineyard. This could have easily gone the other way, but the French got lucky with their fire (disordering both assaulting battalions) and also fighting well in the combat. The Austrians were also unlucky to have so many attackers rout and, with time running out, didn’t have the time to mount a second well coordinated attack.
The French plan to outflank the Russians and brush them aside before taking the vineyard and tackling the Austrians worked quite well. In retrospect the plan was a bit brittle as it depended strongly on each brigade working together in unison like a well oiled machine. There were a few critical places where this failed, but fortunately the allies couldn’t capitalize on this. A major blunder on the French part was to end up in a situation where three battalions spent most of the game dueling with a single battery on the flank. This tied down too many units from the French side and gained nothing.
Anyhow, great game and Juha was once again a great and sporting opponent. Thanks for planning the scenario and I look forward to the third and final Austerlitz scenario – the counter-attack of the Russian grenadiers.