Thursday, August 30, 2012

Road to Borodino IV : Advance!

Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon finally made up his mind on August 24, and the following day the Grande Armee resumed its eastward march, although conditions in its rear remained extremely confused and there was even greater shortage of supplies.  The corps moved in three parallel columns within easy marching distance of each other, for Napoleon anticipated that the Russians would stand and fight in the near future now that Kutusov was reported to be on his way to assume control of the Russian forces.  The central column followed the main post road from Smolensk toward Moscow, led by Murat's over employed and rapidly tiring cavalry, with the Guard, the Ist and IIIrd Corps in support.  On the left marched Viceroy Eugene; on the right, Prince Poniatowski.  All in all, some 124,000 infantry, 32,000 horsemen and 587 guns were on the move.

Marshal Davout
There was little overt opposition; several cavalry skirmishes and other alarms took place, and Murat and Davout chose this inopportune time to fall out seriously with one another over the former's misuse of the mounted arm, but otherwise it was generally the old story of blazing towns and villages, spoiled crops and hovering Cossacks.  Severe rainstorms proved more troublesome than Russian bullets, and on August 30 Napoleon announced that unless the weather improved within the next 24 hours he was going to order a withdrawal to Smolensk.  However, the31st dawned clear and sunny, and so the advance went on.  On September 1, headquarters were at Gzhatsk; three days later Gridnevo was reached; and in the afternoon of the 5th, the French army halted within striking distance of the village of Borodino.  Across the plain could be seen, at long last, the dark masses of the armies of Muscovy, halted and evidently preparing for battle, digging like moles to throw up field fortifications, as was their wont before action.

~ D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p. 794

Sculpting and Converting -Viceroy of Italy 2

At the suggestion of Ross Mac I have completed the conversion of a Chasseur trooper into a model for use as the Viceroy of Italy, Eugene de Beauharnais.

Conversion on the left - original on the right
So now the green stuff must harden and I will get on with the base coating tomorrow of the lot.

92 Russian Infantry in 7 battalions
6 Russian Personalities: Tsar, Bagration, Kutuzov, de Tolly, Benigsen and Platov
Viceroy, Dragoon Officer and Italian General with telescope

Here is an inspiration image for the Viceroy:

And a shot of the bare metal of all the Russian infantry ready to get mounted to the painting sticks (now done) so that the base coat and painting can be done.

They are not needed for the up coming Maloyaroslavets game, and I have wanted to be ready to field a large Russian foot force for some time.  This way I can put out two full Divisions for SHAKO.

Let me know what you think of my 'green stuff' work?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Road to Borodino III : Russian Response

Alexander I, Tsar of all the Russias
Meantime the Tsar and his advisers were also hard at work reviewing their strategy.  After being persuaded by his experts to abandon his Fabian strategy, Alexander visited Moscow on July 24 and made a public, emotional appeal for the assistance of every Russian citizen capable of bearing arms.  His plea did not go unheeded; the principality of Moscow promised 80,000 militia as its contribution, and the other regions of Russia gave similar undertakings in proportion to their resources.  he mood of Russian resistance was rapidly assuming the overtones of a religious crusade.  The metropolitan Archbishop offered the Tsar the venerated Ion of St. Sergius, and Alexander entrusted it to the Moscow militia as their guerdon.  The even more famous Black Virgin of Smolensk, which reputedly had miraculous curative properties, was also delivered into the care of the Russian army.  The simple peasant soldiers of Muscovy were doubly inspired by this combining patriotic and religious appeal.  They marched to battle chanting "'Tis the Will of God."

Kutuzov, Mikhail Larionovich Golenishcev-Kutuzov, Prince of Smolensk
In association with this growing sense of mystical inspiration, and to some extent in answer to the growing clamor of the Russian nobility, Alexander decided to supersede Barclay de Tolly and place the aged veteran Kutusov in supreme command of the Russian forces.  Opinion was adamant that the time for retreat was over; at least one all-out attempt should be made to defend Moscow from the invader, and no man appeared better qualified to lead the troops on such occasion of national crisis and dedication.  The choice was not ideal in every way; in the words of von Clausewitz, "Kutuzov was approaching seventy years of age and no longer possessed either the activity of mind or body which one sometimes finds in soldiers of that age.  However, he knew the Russians, and how to handle them ... He could flatter the self-esteem of both populace and army, and sought by proclamation and religious observances to work on the public mind."  In many ways his military abilities were inferior to those of Barclay, but the fact that Kutusov was a native-born Russian while de Tolly was of alien extraction made him a more suitable choice in the hour of national need when all foreigners were suspect.  In the words of de Segur, Kutusov's "valor was incontestable, but he was charged with regulating its vehemence according to his private interest; for he calculated everything.  His genius was slow, vindictive, and above all, crafty --the true Tartar character! -- knowing the art of preparing an implacable war with a fawning, supple and patient policy."  Prince Kutusov assumed his new responsibilities at Tsarevo on August 29, and at once set out to procure a defensive battle in a position of his own choosing.

~ D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p. 793-794

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sculpting and converting - Viceroy of Italy

Eugene de Beauharnais, Viceroy of Italy
I have today put my hand to doing a little sculpting and conversion of a Chasseur a Cheval rider into a model for use as Eugene de Beauharnais, Viceroy of Italy.

Conversion on the left, original on the right.

I broke off the arm after cutting off the carbine, then using a new tube of Green Stuff I sculpted the arm into the correct position, added a busby bag, cords and plume.  I am still not certain if I will do the Pelisse.

I have another horse for Murat, with the tiger skin on it so the whole ensemble should come out looking similar to the images I have had for inspiration.

It has been an interesting challenge going into the sculpting and conversion realm ... time to get painting and see what the final results are like.

Road to Borodino II : Instinctual decision

Napoleon the soldier and opportunist
In the end it was the instincts of Napoleon the soldier and opportunist that overcame the convictions of Napoleon the statesman.  All his previous experience of war had taught him that victory could only be assured by the ruthless pursuit of a single aim, the hunting-down and destruction of the enemy's army.  He felt confident that Alexander would be compelled to make a major effort to save Moscow, the religious focal point of his realm, and that a heavy defeat and the subsequent occupation of the Kremlin would inevitably bring him to his knees.  It also seemed sound military policy to pursue relentlessly a foe already reeling back in considerable disarray, and who had indeed been doing so since the very opening of the campaign.  Only in Moscow, therefore, could Napoleon hope to find peace.  If for logistical reasons it was dangerous to linger at Smolensk, it was even more risky to head for Moscow, but only by such a bold course could there be any possibility of a reasonably rapid conclusion to the campaign.  The historian Jomini put into Napoleon's mouth a summary of the case: "To force the Russians to a battle, and to dictate peace ... such was teh only mens of safety that now remained.  Mar marshals were divided in opinion.  Murat, who had first accused the Russians of pusillanimity, now trembled at the anger of penetrating so far into the interior.  Others contended that we could hope for no repose till we had gained one decisive battle.  I was also of this opinion.  But how were we to obtain this battle?  Certainly not by remaining at Smolensk, without provisions or other resources.  There was no third choice -- we must march upon Moscow or retreat upon the Niemen ... The experiences of ten campaigns had taught me what was the most decisive point; and I did not doubt a blow struck at the heart of the Russian Empire would instantly destroy the accessory resistance of isolated corps."  Accordingly the decision was taken.  Napoleon communicated the outcome to a despairing Caulaincourt.  "Before the month is out," he said, "we shall be in Moscow; in six weeks we shall have peace."

~ D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p. 792-793

Monday, August 27, 2012

Road to Borodino I : Strategic Considerations

We know that Napoleon had originally considered the possibility of spending the winter around Smolensk, and, according to Caulaincourt, usually a reliable source, he reverted to this idea shortly before the battle of Lubino.  "By abandoning Smolensk, which is one of their Holy Cities, the Russian generals are dishonoring their arms in the eyes of their own people.  That will put me in a strong position.  We will drive them a little further back for our own comfort.  I will dig myself in.  We will rest the troops; the country will shap up around this pivot - and we'll see how Alexander likes that.  I shall turn my attention to the corps on the Dvina, which are doing nothing; my army will be more formidable and my position more menacing to the Russians than if I had won two battles.  I will establish my headquarters at Vitebsk.  I will raise Poland in arms, and later on I will choose, if necessary, between Moscow and St. Petersburg."

What were the advantages such a course could offer? Although most of them were negative rather than positive, they were nevertheless important and tempting.  On the positive side, if the army consolidated its position around Smolensk, the autumn and winter could be employed in bringing the troops to a peak of battle-readiness.  Many of the new drafts reaching the front were practically untrained youngsters, who might prove a liability in any action; a strategic pause would enable them to be brought up to the desired standards of fitness and efficiency.  Similarly, the over-strained and inadequate convoy and supply departments would be given a chance to recover and reorganized.  If Napoleon agreed to the formation of a new Kingdom of Poland, and he was under constant pressure to do so, he might even find a new, large army of grateful Poles placed at his disposal by the spring of 1813.  On the negative side, a halt at Smolensk would also avert a number of dangers.  More than 280 miles lay between the city and Moscow, and it would take all the rest of the late summer and early autumn to cover the distance.  Even if the Grande Armee succeeded in traversing this area, which was badly mapped and would certainly be devastated by the retiring Russian armies, there was no guarantee that the Tsar's generals would accept battle, and even if Moscow was occupied, Alexander might still not be prepared to sue for peace.  In that event, the French might find themselves involved in a costly and frighteningly difficult winter campaign, for which they were in no way equipped, and at the end of a critically extended series of communications with even huger flanks to protect.  The strategic consumption of manpower in maintaining their position around Smolensk was already immense, and a further advance into the unknown without due preparation might well place an impossible strain on the already depleted French resources.  There would be little food for the army to find en route for Moscow; the bad harvest of 1811 and the war-raved one of 1812 made that certain, while the deliberate Russian scorched-earth policy was fast removing what little there remained.

Strategic situation in August 1812, Russia

2007 Eylau Game

On the basis of these mainly military considerations, it would seem that Napoleon would have been well advised to stay at Smolensk, but there were other factors - both military and political - to consider.  In the first place, if Russia was to be forced back into the Continental System with a minimum of delay, it was vital that the decisive battle should be fought as soon as possible.  a six-month respite would give the Tsar time to redeploy his recently released Moldavian and Finnish armies, mobilize and train new forces in the interior, and draw more practical assistance from his British ally.  This would improve the Russian military position and make a French victory even harder to achieve.  Furthermore, the Tsar might be persuaded to launch a massive counteroffensive in the New Year against the extended French positions, stretching from Riga on the Baltic to Smolensk and then southwest to the Pripet Marshes.  Memories of early 1807 made this hardly an alluring prospect. 

2007 Eylau Game
It was also going to prove almost as difficult to feed and maintain the army in its present location as it would around Moscow.  Next, it was necessary to consider the political repercussions of any stay in the offensive.  Th British and Russian governments would certainly immediately represent this pause as a strategic defeat for the "Corsican Ogre," and, indeed, on the previous form of 1805, 1806, or even 1809, it would amount to a serious setback.  Any such check might give those dubious allies, Prussia and Austria, occasion for second thoughts and even lead to serious defections.  The again, tempting though it may be to create an independent Polish kingdom and thus secure the services of a new army of enthusiastic allies, such a course of action was also politically hazardous.  It would most certainly serve to harden the Tsar's resolve to resist to the uttermost, make a negotiated settlement extremely unlikely, and would hardly be welcomed by the Houses of Hohenzollern and Hapsburg.  Again if the Emperor was detained in the east until say, the late spring or summer of 1813, he would have been more than a year absent from Paris, and by August 1812 there were already signs of developing conspiracies.  The news from Spain was also bad.  How much longer, therefore, could Napoleon afford to remain in Russia?

~ D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p. 790-792

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Quatre Bras - Fast Play Grand Armee

The local Dak-Kon convention is coming up on October 13-14, where I will be running a FPGA game of Maloyaroslavets.

In preparation for that game, and to exhibit some tabletop minis game action, I ran a FPGA game of Quatre Bras at the Games and Grounds location for the game expo.

I ended up having just the one opponent, she was most active in the choices she made for the British side in the battle.

For the start she rolled a "1" for the game start = which meant that we were doing something very a-historical in that Ney was going to get most of a day to make the battle go for the French side, which I played.

Pire's Light Cavalry of II Corps
From the start, the light cavalry of II Corps, simply refused to budge.  No matter what I did the die rolls kept coming up with a result of under 6 or "hold" orders.

While the rest of the French forces under Ney moved very well, in fact the first turn ended up having all 4 'pulses' - meaning that the French got to slam into the Duch forces under the command of Orange virtually unopposed!

Guard of the Brunswick Corps forced to hold against Cuirassier and Carabiniers
The Duke of Brunswick did arrive, though, along with Wellington.  Only this time they were immediately used to plug up the allied left, now being pressed hard by the Heavy Cavalry of Kellerman.

Kellerman's heavy Cavalry get a breakthrough on the French right

The dice did not create an 'end game' on turn three so on went the battle, now Picton had arrived, just in the nick of time to check a total rout in the center and allied right.

Chaos in the center
The Dutch force had totally been destroyed, there was a moment when the Prince of Orange had made an effort to 'grab the lapels' of Perponcher, his division had rolled a "12" meaning that they were going to attack - something that had happened already and left Chasse's division destroyed.  The roll for Orange was a "3", meaning he was trying to retreat - something that would have been smart at that point in the battle.  Especially since the Dutch divisions, both of them, ended up destroyed totally at the end of this battle.

the view from the allied right from the Prince of Orange's HQ
No matter what Picton did in the center, the fact that the Brunswick corps was totally routed and the allied left had collapsed made the French victory certain.  With the time just past mid-afternoon (turn 4) and the roads cut for any more arriving troops, Wellington's dice came up to retreat and end the battle.  Picton would have to form the rear guard, likely surrendering the Landwher brigade under his command as the French moved to invest the town of Quatre Bras, a clear victory for Ney!

Oh only if he had started at dawn that day...

Picton cannot save the day ...

Monday, August 20, 2012

Smolensk - afterthought

Battle of Smolensk
Thus Napoleon's third attempt to trap the Russians into a decisive battle ended in as resounding  a failure as its predecessors.  In view of the unfavorable outcome of the Maneuver of Smolensk, Clausewitz and other commentators have asserted that Napoleon would have been wiser to make a straightforward advance from Vitebsk instead fo the brilliantly conceived but poorly executed strategic envelopment.  Some argue that he should have undertaken a tactical envelopment of the Russian right; others that heshould have waited longer at Vitebsk, letting the enemy come to him.  However, it i more important to summarize the reasons for his failure in the course he chose than to speculate about alternative courses of action.

A combination of factors deprived Napoleon of the great battle he so ardently desired.  First, Bagration's prompt reaction in sending his VIIth Corps to garrison the city ensured that an adequate force was present to face Murat and Ney.  Secondly, the old-fashioned fortifications of Smolensk proved stronger than they appeared, and this enabled Raevski to hold off the French until help could arrive.  Thirdly, the French sacrificed all chance of surprising the enemy by their inexplicable waste of August 15, which was spent in operational idleness.  Fourthly, Napoleon was undoubtedly guilty of failing to press his advantage to the full.  He delayed the final advance on Smolensk, then indulged in useless and piecemeal assaults on the city instead of pressing on to cut the Moscow road, selecting the wrong commander for this task when he at last ordered it, and, throughout, displayed a general lack of the energy and drive which might have inspired his subordinates to success, heedless of all difficulties.  This is a heavy indictment of Napoleon as a general, but politically there ma have been some justification for his decision to concentrate the army's efforts against Smolensk, militarily only  a secondary objective.  Perhaps he hoped a resoundingly successful storm of one of the most important and venerated cities of Holy Russia would suffice to bring the Tsar to terms. 

If this is what he thought, he was of course totally mistaken.  The determination of Alexander and the Russian people to withstand the invader was rapidly attaining a near-mystical pitch; Napoleon was to learn that the will of the Russians was as unbreakable as that of the Spanish populace.

~D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p. 789-790

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Battle of Smolensk VI - Pursuit

It was in the early hours of August 19 that the French pursuit got under way.  Ney began to drive eastward out of Smolensk, pushing before him Barclay's rear guard, while Murat, after fording the river at a weir near the confluence of the Dnieper and the Stragan Brook, set of down the Moscow road.  Once it became clear that the enemy was heading for Moscow and not St. Petersburg, Napoleon ordered General Junot to take his fresh corps forward as quickly as possible through Prudichevo, over the Niemen and on to Lubino in an attempt to block Barclay's line of retreat.  However, neither the man nor the time was right for the task.  It took Junot all day to find a way over the Dnieper at Prudichevo, and even when his men were safely over he refused to attck despite repeated entreaties of his colleagues and the specific orders of the Emperor.  Meantime, Ney and Murat were engaged in heavy fighting against Generals Eugen (Barclay's rear guard commander) and Tutchkov around the defile of Valutino.  Gallant General Gudin was fatally wounded when he lost both legs during the fierce fighting, but the French proved incapable of driving back the tenacious Russians, while Junot's refusal to attack the Russian flank proved fatal to any hopes of trapping the main enemy army.  All day, Barclay's columns streamed off eastward in the wake of Bagration's formations.  "Junot h let the Russians escape," the Emperor bitterly complained.  "He is losing the campaign for me."  The enemy's escape was not wholly Junot's fault, however.  It is revealing that Napoleon left the front and retired to Smolensk at 5:00 pm to rest; this was no longer the brilliant general of boundless energy of former campaigns.

~ D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p. 789

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Battle of Smolensk V - 18th August

Campaign map of Smolensk
Throughout the 18th very little activity took place, clear evidence of Napoleon's lack of drive, but by the end of the day most of Ney's men were over the newly repaired bridge, Junot's corps had arrived outside the city, and the leading units of the IV Corps were close by.  On the Russian side, the day saw the final breakdown of cooperation between Barclay and Bagration.  The latter, on his own authority, set out with is men for Solovievo, leaving only four regiments of Cossacks to hold the vital crossroads at Lubino, 18 miles east of Smolensk.  It was only late in the evening that Barclay's army began to follow their comrades.  All day, therefore, Napoleon missed a fine opportunity of placing part of his army between the two Russian forces.  A single corps would have sufficed for the task.  This inaction is partly explained by his uncertainty as to whether the foe were heading north or east, but Napoleon's abilities seem to have been in temporary eclipse.

~ D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p.788

Friday, August 17, 2012

Battle of Smolensk IV - considerations

It is uncertain why Napoleon ordered an assault at all, for he would have been far better advised to mask the cit and move his men on to cross the Dnieper and create a threat to the important Smolensk-Moscow Highway; this would have been a far surer was of forcing a Russian evacuation of the city followed by a major battle.  Indeed, the threat of such a move filled the minds of both Barclay and Bagration throughout the day, and it accounts for the former's decision to evacuate Smolensk during the night of the 17th-18th.  This order caused a storm of recrimination at Russian headquarters, the Grand Duke Constantine (the Tsar's brother) and General Bennigsen accusing the minister of war of cowardice.  Barclay, however, refused to rescind his order, and accordingly Doctorov's four divisions abandoned their positions and retired to the northern bank, burning the bridge behind them.  At two in the morning, Ney discovered that there were no Russians facing his troops.  The men of the Ist and IIIrd Corps rushed into the blazing town, and one party even succeeded in wading through the river at the broken bridge where the water was only four feet deep because of the rubble, and stormed the Russian position beyond.  It took the entire rear guard of Bagrations's army, namely 10 regiments, to contain the jubilant Wurttembergers and Portuguese who performed this feat.

~ D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p.788

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Battle of Smolensk III - 17th August

Battle of Smolensk
The 17th saw a great deal of confused fighting in the suburbs, as the three French Corps attempted to storm the city, but for all their gallantry the French proved incapable of penetrating the main defenses, although their guns were pounding the houses of the Old City into rubble or blazing ruins.  Doctorov clung grimly to his main positions, and when dusk fell the French had little to show for their pains apart from 10,000 casualties.  The Russians lost between 12-14,000 men during the two days' fighting.

~ D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p. 786

Battle of Smolensk II - Massing forces

All afternoon the forces of the two contending powers massed around the city, divided by the Dnieper.  The hours did not pass without excitment, however, for at one stage Raevski's cavalry were forced back beneath the walls, and the French 46th Regiment all but succeeded in capturing the Royal Citadel when the garrison was rushed off to meet a supposed thrust toward a vital bridge.  No major attack was ordered by the Emporor, however, and when darkness fell the French gains were very limited.  By dusk, however, Davout and Poniatowski had arrived to take up positions on Ney's right, thus completing the semicircle around the Old City.  Meanwhile General Doctorov had arrived to take over the positions held by the Russian VIIth Corps, Raevski recrossing the bridge to the north bank in order to rejoin Bagration's army, which was massing to the east of the New Town while Barclay's corps were fast appearing on the western heights.  For the present, then, Smolensk was safe from a French coup de main.

~D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p.786

Battle of Smolensk I - Opening Moves

Murat, King of Naples
Murat's leading patrols were in contact with the Russian outposts from dawn on the 16th, and by 10:00 am all the cavalry and Ney's IIIrd Corps were within range of the defenses.  Murat placed his troopers around the eastern side of the Old City, while Ney deployed opposite the Krasnoe suburb.  Ney, with only 18,000 infantry, did not feel disposed to attempt an immediate assault, but decided to await the arrival of Napoleon and the main body.  The Emperor, however, spent most of the morning west of Smolensk, waiting for the news that the bridge at Katan (which might have been used by Barclay to outflank the Grande Armee before Smolensk) had been destroyed.  Once he was satisfied on this point, he rode on to the city, arriving shortly after 1:00 pm.

~ D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p.786

Italian Forces Finish

The Italian forces have been finished since Monday the 13th, however I have not had opportunity time to get the flags on nor get any photos until this afternoon.

Italian battalions all lined up
The color switch from blue to green works well for the Napoleonic uniforms.

four Italian battalions (say that fast 4 times)
I also took the opportunity to cast some more French and paint them as the "Wild Geese" Irish brigade, I selected the one flag that I saw in a Knotel print.

an Irish "Wile Geese" formation

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Failure to Execute - Maneuver of Smolensk

But for Neveroski's staunch resistance, the French cavalry might well have reached Smolensk by the evening of the 14th.  Under the circumstance, however, Napoleon decided, somewhat unwisely as it proved, to check his forward movement for twenty-four hours in order to regroup his forces.  It is difficult to understand this decision, as it robbed the maneuver of much of its vital surprise element and afforded the Russians with time to react, for by the early hours of the 15th both Bagration and Barclay had learned from Neveroski of the French offensive and had forthwith ordered their troops to retrace their steps to Smolensk.  The latter wasted no time in ordering General Raevski's VIIth Corps to occupy the city's defenses, and by dawn on the 15th, these troops were entering the city from the west to strengthen the garrison (commanded by Count Bennigsen); they were soon joined by Neveroski's diminished but gallant division.  Thus Napoleon missed his chance of taking Smolensk by surprise.  Fifteenth August was also the Emperor's forty-third birthday and part of the day was spent somewhat unnecessarily reviewing the army.

~D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p. 785

Monday, August 13, 2012

Russian resistance - 200 years ago...

Marshal Murat in his dandy uniform of the King of Naples
When he had devised his march toward Vitebsk, Barclay had very wisely ordered General Neverovski to take his division of 8,000 infantry and 1,500 cavalry onto the southern bank of the Dnieper to guard the approaches to Smolensk and observe any French moves.  A tough engagement ensued.  Murat flung his massed squadrons against the puny Russian force time and again, but failed to break its cohesion.  The King of Naples lost his head, instead of allowing the IIIrd Corps to move up through his cavalry to engage the Russian infantry, now formed in  one huge square, he deliberately blocked their passage, heedless of Ney's pleas, and launched no less than 40 piecemeal charges against the enemy.  They all proved to no avail; had the French been in a position to deploy some artillery, the Russian square would have been blasted into smithereens, but all their guns were held up in the narrow Krasnoe defile.  As a result, Neverovski was able to execute a model withdrawal toward Smolensk.
~ D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p.784

Maneuver of Smolensk II

Napoleon Maneuvers on Smolensk, one of his masterpiece plans
In support of these operations, Napoleon also devised a carefully considered system of communications.  He ordered that the town of Vitebsk was to be fortified and provided with a garrison of 3,000 men to protect his northern flank and serve as his center of operations in the early stages.  Once the secret was out of the bag and the Russians became aware of his broad intentions, the lines of communication were to be re-channeled through Orsha, running back to Vilna by way of Borisov and Minsk.

The strategy of envelopment; schematic
The preliminary movements began on August 11, and by the 13th the army was massed in its appointed forming up area, ready to cross the  Dnieper.  The Grande Armee's change of front had so far gone undetected, thanks to the excellent work of the cavalry screen and the concealment offered by the densely wooded nature of the terrain.  On the night of the 13th-14th, General Eble completed the throwing of four pontoon bridges over the Dnieper near Rosasna and the crossing could begin.  By dawn, n less than 175,000 troops were safely over the obstacle.  The advance toward Smolensk was immediately ordered, and the corps marched off at a fast pace behind the protective screen provided by Grouchy's, Nansouty's and Montbrun's cavalry.   The weather was dry, the roads were good, and by three in the afternoon, the leading elements had reached the town of Krasnoe, some 30 miles west of Smolensk, and there encountered the first sign of Russian opposition.

~ D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p784

Maneuver of Smolensk I

French Grand Armee columns on the march
Almost all commentators agree that this operational plan constitutes one of Napoleon's masterpieces.  He intended to create a formidable battalion carre of almost 200,000 men and launch it across the Dnieper river on a 15-mile front in two large columns through Rosasna and Orsha with the greatest possible secrecy, intending to turn the Russian left while his opponents amused themselves cautiously probing toward Vitebsk on the opposite bank of the river.  The Rosasna column, under the Emperor's personal command, was to  consist of Murat's cavalry, the IIIrd Corps d'Armee, the Imperial Guard, and the Viceroy of Italy's contingents.  Further south Marshal Davout was to cross with the Ist, Vth and VIIIth Corps, forming the second column, while Latour-Maubourg's Corps of Reserve Cavalry launched a diversionary attack still further down the Dnieper.  Once safely over the river, the main attack would advance eastward along the left bank, aiming to sever the roads linking Smolensk with Moscow, force Barclay to fight, then drive the remnants of the Russian forces away to the north.  This was a maneuver of strategic envelopment worthy of the one that preceded the great triumph of Jena-Auerstadt in 1806, and if it had fully succeeded the fruits of victory would have been no less impressive.

~D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p. 783

Reaction to the counteroffensive - 200 years ago

Napoleon's first reaction on receipt of news of Inkovo had been to suspend preparations for the drive on Smolensk and order the army to concentrate around the nucleus of the IIIrd Corps near Lyosno in readiness to meet the Russian attack.  However, by the 10th it appeared that this desirable event was not, after all, forthcoming; Barclay had halted in his tracks.  Consequently, Napoleon canceled the concentration at Lyosno and reverted to his preparations for the Maneuver of Smolensk.

~ D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p.783

Russian Counteroffensive - two centuries ago

From the first, however, ths operation was dogged with difficulties.  Barclay and Bagration were already on the worst of terms, and consequently their armies failed to cooperate to the best advantage.  When Platov reported his limited success at Inkovo, the Russian war minister's nerve paradoxically began to fail him, and fearing massive French retaliation he swung his line of advance to the northwest and virtually abandoned the forward movement.For six days his offensive hung in abeyance, and when on the 13th he again ordered an advance, its extent was very limited, and before the day ran out, the Russian army was again halted a short way to the east of Rudnia.  By this time Bagration was simply not cooperating with his colleague, the bulk of the Second Army remaining in the vicinity of Smolensk.  Thus the last spark of the Russian offensive was allowed to die away.

~ D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p. 783

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Italina forces progress

13 days to completion will be the timeline here.
lacing details all filled in

From bare metal to flocked and ready for the table.
metallic details like buttons and bayonets are done

Took a couple of photos of the progress, gloss coating went on today, once it dries I will be flocking the whole force.

Weekend games

ACW troops Painted by my eldest
My eldest son has done up some 15mm American Civil War troops (for Hordes of the Things) and used them in discussions about US history for a class at his interaction school.

This weekend he wanted to do some games.

Marian Romans in 15mm by me
We started with the ACW, then did some DBA with Rome and Carthage.

Then on Saturday we did some more Hordes of the Things, using some Warmaster Goblins and a mix of minis in my 'Dark Elf' army.

Dark Elves

in battle with the Goblinz and Dark Elves

Good to get them out and have some fun with my oldest, now 13.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Italian forces block colors

From bare metal to block colored in a few days.

Doing a great schedule for me, something must be giving me the energy and desire to keep at it - oh yeah, the Maloyaroslavets game is in October!

Back to the brushes.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Found in the Mound o Lead = Russian Personalities

Russian Personalities minis by Old Glory
While searching for some Chasseur a Cheval castings that I had made a few years ago and had put into storage I came across a stash of 28mm Russian Personality miniatures: Tsar Alexander I , Kutusov, de Tolly, Bagration, Platov, and Benningson.

Really nice find and very timely now with the 1812 games looming - plus the potential for use in 2013 as part of a greater German set of campaign games (elements are still forming in my plans).

Just as I did with Bonaparte and the Marshals a few years ago, I plan to lavish some time on these minis to do them justice in future tabletop use.

Oh, and the Chasseur a Cheval minis?  I found them and plan to do a conversion of one of them into Eugène de Beauharnais for use in the Maloyaroslavets game this October.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Counter Offensive - Russia returns fire 200 years ago

The moment appeared propitious for a counteroffensive; Napoleon's impetus had largely died away, his formations were scattered around Vitebsk, and a resolute Russian advance would enable two more Russian formations, the Armies of Finland and Moldavia, both newly liberated from their previous frontier commitments by recent agreements with Sweden and Turkey, to mass in the interior preparatory to entering the campaign against the French.  Accordingly, after holding a council of war on the 6th, Barclay ordered 100,000 infantry, 18,000 regular cavalry and 650 guns to move westward from Smolensk, hoping to forestall any French concentration and catch the enemy scattered and unprepared.

~ D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p. 782-3