Monday, July 30, 2012

Battle Front 1812

French Advance into Russia, first stage of 1812
On the eve of Operations in June 1812, the various army groups had occupied a start line of a little over 250 miles (Konigsberg to Lublin).  In little more than six weeks, the front-line forces had become extended into a huge arrowhead running from Riga to Vitebsk and thence towards Bobruisk and the Pripet Marshes.  Even excluding Schwarzenberg and Reynier, Operating around Lutsk far to the southwest of the rest of the army, the main French front extended for well over 500 miles.  Thus Napoleon's resources were becoming decidedly strung out, and the strategic consumption of manpower was already serious.  By the time he reached Smolensk in mid August, the effective fighting strength of his central army group had been reduced to 156,000.  In the month that followed this figure was to shrink still further, amounting to only 95,000 by the time Moscow was occupied; and all the time the French lines of communication were inevitably becoming more and more extended, placing an ever heavier load on the shoulders of the overworked supply battalions and calling for numerous garrison detachments for the protection of the staging points and extended flanks.  Whether or not the Russian policy of denying battle and drawing Napoleon ever further into the midst of Russia was the result of deliberate planning or dictated by the course of events, it undoubtedly weakened the Grande Armee to a mere shadow of its original battle power.

~ D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon p.781

The significance of this cannot be missed to the war gamer seeking to simulate this sort of grand campaign.  Supply is a critical issue, as would be the maintenance of the supply lines in such a situation.  The steppes of Russia are not the fertile fields of the Po River valley...

When planning your campaign games do you include any such factors?


Archduke Piccolo said...

You would almost think that the logistic problems being as they are, a wargamer would look for a rather limited approach to taking on Russia. Moscow - probably even St Petersburg - is just too far away.

Mapoleon did indeed organise something a lot more robust by way of a logistic support system than he had employed hitherto, but it still wasn't enough.

He did, I understand, seriously contemplate a pause around Smolensk. It would be interesting then to see whether he could have sustained the campaign through to the following summer.

In my view the Napoleon of 1796, 1805, even of 1809 probably could have done. But the Napoleon of 1812 was war weary, even if he didn't know it (though he did predict that that would happen eventually). His heart wasn't in it to the same extent as formerly, yet he had undertaken a campaign far vaster than any previous. Not exactly a recipe for failure, withal, but hardly a harbinger of success.


Rafael Pardo said...

I habitually do campaigning in Saxony 1813. The attition and the loss of marauders an sick was rampart in the French side, and I habitually correct the strength of the units to take it in account.