Thursday, December 04, 2014

Magnificent modeling: Fontainbleu

An amazing work in progress!


The Adieux de Fontainebleau blog has works that will bring a smile to a modeler's face.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Garden Wars LEIPZIG

Bonaparte, a man who defined his era.
With the last sunny day of summer I managed to lay out the Leipzig battlefield in the backyard Garden War zone and game-out the grand battle of Leipzig.

I used a hybrid of FPGA and SCRUD to make the action move forward, as I needed to simulate multiple days of battle and found I needed to use nearly all of my 3"x 3" sheet steel squares in order to run the game with the miniature stands representing an entire Corps in strength.  I treated the stand as the Corps in tight battle formations and permitted a double width 'control zone' around the stand for infantry and triple width for cavalry corps formations.

The map needed to be simplified in order to fit this change in scale considerations and this was pretty simply accomplished, as there were only four main 'towns' around Leipzig that had any impact on the historical operations.

The field of battle, still in early morning shade, rivers and swampy area marked with blue dye on wood chips.
Map view from the Osprey Campaign series.

The troops were then assigned into the sectors of the map that they were in historically on the 16th of October 1813.

The Allied command, looking west towards Leipzig.  All of the better troops and largest Russian formations came from this east corridor between forested sections.

South of Leipzig is where the Austrian formations were massed, here FML Prohaska can be seen backstopping two other Austrian Corps looking north toward Leipzig.

Far in the north east General Barclay held the flank with just one Austrian Corps to start with, he knew that two more Russian Corps were coming up in a day or two and that to the far north the Swedes and Prussians were coming, with Blucher planning to arrive from the west.  All Barclay needed to do was hold his ground for the time being.
Commanding from Leipzig itself, Bonaparte surveys his deployment.

In the southeast, facing a mix of Russian and Austrian cavalry were I Cav Corps and the Guard Light Cavalry (not seen in picture) under the experienced command of Murat.

Facing directly east in the open ground was V Corps under Lauriston.
 Each 3 inch square stand would have infantry, cavalry and artillery in proportion to the number and quality of divisions in the Corps sized formations.  Thus if a stand did not have a cannon on it, that did not mean there were no guns present, only that there were too few to make the weight of cannon fire felt at the scale of the game.

In Liebertwolkowitz were stationed the middle and young guard with their artillery.

The balance of the guard and the massed batteries of "the Emperors beautiful daughters" were west of the front lines and stationed so as to fully support the east most line and form a superior reserve.  They were facing south in support of the first planned actions of the Emperor ... the elimination of the Austrians in the south sector.
After some time studying the ground and dispositions of the forces, I could see why Bonaparte chose to strike in the south early and hard.  If the Austrians could be 'rolled up' into the south flank of the allied lines then the whole position of the attacking forces could be flanked and thus totally blunted, or perhaps cut off and destroyed in detail before any supporting army from the north or west could make effective presence on the field.

Guard in Liebertwolkwitz poured out fire into the advancing Russians

Lauriston and V Corps took disruptions, and held their ground

Murat and the Cavalry made early charges into Austrian Cuirassier, breaking contact between the Allied center and left (in the south)

Austrian Cuirassier forced back

In the south, combined arms of the French strike at Austrian Corps, inflicting many casualties, while Guard units move into Markkleeberg to support the assault in the open.
22h00 the Allied line in the south was quite distorted and the east column had not gained any ground

Murat was driving out Austrian Corps formations on the right and left in the south

Allied command had not moved, nor had the great columns advance much that day.

A fair start for the day for the French, yet to have cleared the south would be been better ...
Overnight maneuvers only - no combat permitted (save for units still in contact at end of day) also arriving units for dawn next day are announced - I am literally making up the rules for this one on the fly.

Allied command determining to hold ground on the left (south) by pulling back and delaying any French assaults

On the other end of the causeway - opening the escape route, Bertrand is dealing with two Austrian foot corps.  He has equal numbers of foot and advantage in cavalry ... the prospects for the Austrians do not look good.

Pulling back, the Austrians attempt to re-assemble a line

Nearly all the Austrian formations in the south faced attacks on the 16th and the prospects for the 17th looked like more battles directly with French

A deadly game of chicken was shaping up in the north, where Barclay de Tolly faced off against French cavalry with an infantry corps ...
Even before dawn on the 17th the French artillery were active probing the Austrians in the south.

the Allied lines had stabilized in the south, now they would be tested by the French yet again

in the east, the great Allied column surged forward, artillery of both sides exchanging fire

A Russian corps, caught in a box by French foot and cavalry corps ... no way out trapped against a woods
The morning went badly for the Allies as Austrian and Russian corps were cut apart by fast moving French cavalry corps, it looked like Bonaparte's plan to strike hard in the south was going to pay off!

by noon on the 17th the field was looking clear in the south, while leading Prussian formation were showing up in the West

Bertrand on the far side of the causeway had only one more Division of Austrians to overcome, whom he had outnumbered and outgunned ...

Marmont, in the west was now facing the prospect of being surrounded, wisely he began a withdrawal to the riverline

only remnants of the Austrian forces remained in the south

Allied command was getting impatient with the continued hold-up of the great column to the east

Russian Grenadiers and Guard were hurled towards V Corps, while massed Russian batteries pounded Liebertwokwitz in vain attempt to dislodge the French Guard from the town.

again Murat arrives with cavalry to outflank Allied lines, this time Russian Dragoons are caught in the trap

fighting valiantly the Russian Dragoons and Guards struggle to hold ground

the 3-in square bases with FPGA labels

unable to return fire now, Marmont will accelerate his march to the river

The light cavalry division with Marmont will permit the withdrawal as the flanking Russians have no cavalry

like a deep breath being released a moment of delay in the post noon turn, now many formations have been driven out of range in the south and a need for re-deployment comes for the French

all the while V Corps under Lauriston (though disrupted - the smoke) were holding their ground and keeping the massive column to the east from advancing.

Russians push forward, to close range, as they did not want to become trapped by the superior French cavalry

Now a second line was forming up to face the east column

while in the south a follow-up was being conducted to keep the Austrians away for good.
in the failing light, now the French had to hold ground against the east column, while in the south Austrians were sent scattering in all directions.

A wider view to the west, showing the cleared causeway exit and the rising pressure from Prussians west of the river and north of the causeway

Allied forces rush from the east again in effort to break the French line

whole corps are used to shield Yermelov's guard from Lauriston's guns

the south was cleared of Austrians, while the east column was again stopped

in the north, Barclay de Tolly was able to move cautiously forward as the French cavalry was being pulled back to cover the French left

unable to escape the pursuit Marmont did his best to keep his men together so as to cross the river if at all possible in the face of Russian and Prussian attacks
Mortier and half of the Guard kept Russians from advancing till dark

The surge of Russians could not be completely stopped, as Guards and Grenadiers reached V corps

Other French formations were unable to assist as Murat had them formed up to cover Prussians

This was a battle Lauriston would face alone

flanked and needing to simply withdraw the option was at least available so Lauriston would not be destroyed this day
The overnight moves again were plotted and this time Blucher arrived in the west and Crown Prince Charles John (Bernadotte) arrived in the north, marching up behind Ney, who was falling back with the remains of the Army of Berlin.

field overview at dawn, French have formed a tight line to the east, while in the north a vast host bears down on Ney

Having taken 11 Corps worth of casualties in two days of fighting the Allied command was set to gain some victories this day!

Seeing the critical nature of the situation, Bonaparte himself commands the Imperial Guard in support of the battered Lauriston to halt the Russian columns advance

in flank support, to the south of the Guard is Murat with the Guard cavalry and I Cav Corps

The moment of truth for the campaign had arrived, was Bonaparte still up to the task?

The east flank, as seen from the far south positions, still moving to re-deploy from battling Austrians the day before.

Other light cavalry was also being moved to the north as it was clear that Ney was outnumbered and would need the help in reaching the French lines.

Barclay de Tolly also had re-enforcement and was preparing to pressure the French from the north east flank

While the Swedish Crown Prince arrived with his formidable Prusso-Swedish force, in pursuit of Ney

Ney had turned his forces to face the pursuit.  One of the Emperors fire eaters, the Prince of the Moscwa was not to be discounted.

Polish forces were part of Ney's contingent.

far to the west, Blucher drove forward with his Prussians.  The box for the French in the north of Leipzig was closed.

Prussians and Russians prepare to cross the river and join the pursuit south into Leipzig

as the armies exchanged fire in the east, the first Imperial Guard division of Old Guard is shattered

cheering erupts from the Reserve and Guards corps as they see a corps of Imperial Guard recoil from their cannon fire!

only a recoil for Friant, for the Guard can take quite a pounding before any failure of morale
by noon, the Allied impetus had faltered and again the French were on the move

Barclay, in the north had to delay as his supporting force came up

at the river line, Blucher was in mid crossing

one bright spot for the Allies was an opportunity to overwhelm a French Corps

While over at the main line, the Allied assault had reached V Corps and Bonaparte was there to bolster morale

the exchange was furious, while V Corps sustained disruption and the Russians did not, this was not good enough of a result for all the price it had taken to reach this point.

Grand Duke Constantine and the Guard were not satisfied

only a single Guard division had been broken for all that effort
late in the day, the French again form a defensive line to the east of Leipzig and still in the north Ney is backing away from masses of Prussian, Russian and Swedish forces.

One more effort from the Guard.  Halt the Russians and the day may yet be won!

Scrambling to cover the flank one lone Austrian corps combines with Russian Hussars and Cossacks to drive off French

The east line chooses not to advance, rather they take on an isolated French/Italian Corps

... and eliminate it!
as nightfall approaches the French are recoiling everywhere, while the Allies are struggling to find the forces to keep up the pressure from the east, in the north there are ample forces to contain and possibly take out Ney's entire command!

looking north, the French are seen to have re-set a defensive line in the east and are scattered to the north

Ney's command comes under fire on three sides.

No more room to maneuver, Ney must commence a full withdrawal

While Crown Prince John and FML Stedinck are set to pursue!
the overnight move saw more French retreat with progressive Allied follow up

something to celebrate at last after three days of battle, Bonaparte was caught.  The problem was that the price to catch the French had been so great as to make destroying them a near-impossible task.

Undaunted, the Allied cavalry formed up

holding the south alone was one French corps

While the Emperor and the Guard formed a gun line to stop any hope of victory from the east column
By dawn of the 19th it was clear to Bonaparte that Ney could not stop the Allied forces in the north, so an orderly retreat was commenced, the causeway was clear beyond Lindenau so the army was assured to make good a general retreat once the crossing had been conducted.

Only progressive covering forces would be needed...

by noon, the French had effected further withdrawal

Lauriston had been set on the causeway

Augerau was crossing the Elster

Marmont was tasked with holding back the Prussian tide along the river from the north

Ney had become surrounded, with his back to a woods and the river rushing before him in the distance ... his tale vanishes at this point as his command is over-run

More Russians, Prussians and Swedes surge down from the north

Scrambling French light cavalry manage to contain the northern breakout one more time

Allied luck holds as they win the initiative option yet again

in a last act of defiance Ney goes down with a French Corps
late in the day, the Allies could not manage to catch up with the fleeing Frenchmen, though they did still inflict some more casualties - degrading the effectiveness of those units still in the field

Pressing forward from Liebertwolkwitz, at last the Russian Guard were going to move on

backing off, now Bonaparte was in Leipzig again, this time with no room to maneuver as Allied forces were closing in on two sides

Prussians can be seen in the distance from Imperial QG

Poniatowski crosses the Elster, this time alive and well

Augerau on the causeway

Lauriston clearing the causeway and leading the retreat column to the Rhine

looking north from the bridge, all Allied forces beyond Marmont

Murat gets in one more kill with 3 Cav Corp and the Guard Cavalry

luck continues to favor the Allies in moving first ...
the Allies maintained the initiative into the night

The Allied Monarchs set up in Liebertwolkwitz, now clear of French Guardsmen

a larger line was now formed to the north of Leipzig, so Marmont was no longer alone in holding off Blucher

while the Guard formed east of the city, the last rearguard

Murat maintained a mobile force facing the north, certainly keeping away any Allied cavalry till well past dark

Barclay de Tolly was happy to have eliminated the corps that had harassed his positions for two days, now at last with Bennigsen, they would move forward to the south.

turned to face west now, Crown Prince Charles John had the last French light cavalry corps pinned against the river

the two grand head-quarters looking across the field at each other

the view looking west on the bridge and causeway, now filling with French soldiers, horse and guns

an overhead view of the north facing defense line
The 20th of October 1813 was the last day of action in this recreation, for the French had certainly got away with the majority of the troops and the best the Allies could hope for was to sting the Guard one more time ...

the Allied Monarchs push forward in one last attempt to sting the French

More French Grande Armee forces safely cross the river, this time including the Emperor

seen from above, the Leipzig defense and causeway

one move later, the Allied forces had now lost greater than 1/2 of the starting total Corps - the great battle was over, the Allies were too exhausted to move any further

Arrighi would manage to slip away from the Swedes, Prussians and Russians - perhaps in a rain shower?

the great bridge and causeway would remain open for the rest of the day, permitting the Guard to withdraw ...

spread out in a long column, more like a medieval army, the French Grand Armee would march to the Rhine, with only a pause at Hanau on October 31 to swat the foolish Bavarians for daring to change sides and stand in the way

though many formations were battered, the French did better than the Allies at sheltering damaged formations

seen from Lindenau looking to the east northeast towards Leipzig, the causeway is jammed with men & horses & guns

though forced to retreat, this time Bonaparte escapes with most of the army in-tact, making 1814 and the Natural Frontiers a more difficult campaign for the Allies

The Guard proved their mettle again, though taking damage the formations remain.
A great day out in the late summer sun, now reported here on the cusp of mid-winter.

I have a better understanding of the multi-day grand Battle of Nations and from this perspective I shall state that I do not believe that Bonaparte could have changed the outcome of the battle in mid October.  The events of the Campaign had conspired to create a situation that could not be so easily overcome.

In this re-fight, Ney was victim to his own hubris, for had he pulled back sooner then the French forces could have had a chance at crossing the bridge and causeway.  As it was, Ney was a sacrifice, he could have been killed or captured, or he may have slipped the Prussians and dove into the Elster, possibly ending as Poniatowski did historically.

What great battles have you game'd out in the past few years?

What insights have playing those games brought you?