Friday, August 30, 2013

Prussian battles around Potsdam : 1813 Campaign of Nations continues

In connection with the ongoing Campaign of Nations game that I am part of, here is an account of the action south of the Spree River, south of Potsdam.

The French had 'dug in' and prepared defensive positions to face three columns of Prussians
This time Corbineau and St. Cyr had the task of holding off Bulow and at least twice their number of Prussians.  Though equal in artillery and cavalry, the quality of the Prussian forces was considerably lower.

Initial deployment at 14h00

The French were to have deployed for battle, ready to receive the troops from across the Spree and Bulow's columns to the east, now they were also going to throw up defenses for the column coming from the south!

French forces in position, with a 'hold back' reserve of infantry and cavalry
French deployed, ready to receive attacks on three sides
With the Fast Play Grande Armee system that I am using there is a 'dicing' for when the battle will start, in this case I ruled that the column arriving from the south would have no way to accurately coordinate with the high command coming out from a wooded region to the east.  While the north column of Prussians could easily coordinate with the high command as they could see the whole of the battle region where the high command was to arrive from.

This meant that a separate die roll was needed for the south column, as it happened the south column came up a "4" and the high command a "6".  This indicated that the south column would have to engage alone ... AND that the French could not easily afford to abandon their positions for concern that they would be 'caught out' of position by the later arriving columns.

Arriving from the south on turn 4, von Hirschfeld's force was all Landwher

Facing an entire French Corps alone, the results would have been predictable ... however, the French could not afford to commit their full force to attacking the Division of Hirschfeld, therefore St Cyr launched his cavalry and supported them with infantry ... from his operating reserve.

field at about 16h00

The Lancers of Steadmann were to smash their way through all opponents!

Steadmann's Lancer brigade was unstoppable
the remaining French forces manned their positions, knowing that more Prussians were coming
Von Hirschfeld was helpless before the onslaught of French troops.  The only saving grace was the ferocity of one of the freiwillinger brigades, who combined to eliminate twice their own numbers in French line troops and Hussars!

most of the Prussians had fled, only one freiwillinger brigade refused to budge!
forced down to their last man the freiwillinger brigade was finally cut down by cannonade
With the Prussians from the south dispatched, now St Cyr had time to re-deploy and re-order his forces, for 44th Division: Général de division Berthezène had taken it upon himself to shift his command from the north to the south in order to attack the small Prussian force ... thus taking himself OUT OF POSITION to face the coming wave of Prussians from Potsdam itself.

44th Division is in the center, leaving the guns vulnerable in the north
Turn six now and the arrival of the Prussian main body and north assault force.

Prussians arrive in force at 18h00
Generallieutenant Bülow in command
Generallieutenant Bülow chose to send out his cavalry first, in an effort to envelop the defenders of the east facing earthworks and then have infantry commence a direct assault upon the guns, while following up with his own gun line.

Prussian east column or main body
Crossing the Spree from the north was the 4th Korps under von Tauentzien, supported by the Russo-German brigade of Arentschild and the cobbled together remnants of 3rd Korps 4th and 6th brigades.

crossing the Spree from the north, 4th Korps
There had been enough time to re-deploy the battered French cavalry from the south to the north flank and get 44th Division back into their positions supporting the north facing guns.

French north and east flanks are ready to receive the Prussians ...
while in the south, the damaged infantry reserve remained stationary
The Prussians wasted no time in the north, indeed even the tough lancers of Stedmann finally took some damage from being forced to present a flank to Prussian guns across the river.

While in the east the Prussian columns of horse, could not quite reach the French defenders, this left them vulnerable to counter-attacks, one of which sent the Cossacks fleeing from advancing French infantry.

situation at 19h40
in the east, French threw back advancing Cossacks
in the north, French push back Prussians from the gun line
view from the headquarters of the center and north of French positions
The Prussians had not penetrated into the French positions yet and, as fate would have it, there was to be no more opportunity to get into those positions.

Given that this battle was taking place in August and the weather where I was was raining - I ruled that it was a cloudy day for basic game length purposes.  This meant that the battle was to only have 7 turns.  The dice determine the number of 'pulses' in a turn - anywhere from 1 to 4 possible pulses.  If the d4 roll on the start of the second pulse comes up a '1' then the turn ends.

the die rolls for the start of pulse 2 of turn 7, note the d4 has a '1'
This was the fortunes of war this time for Bülow, as now the danger of starting the battle so late in the day came back to haunt the Prussian efforts.  Who knows why the delay?  Perhaps the woods were more dense than anticipated, or the artillery kept getting bogged down in flooded roads.  As for the turn ending at this moment, perhaps a rain shower opened up?  Or just the combination of black powder clouds and thickening cloud deck made seeing any more of the enemy impossible.

the field at nightfall
Neither side had any clear territorial advantage, though the Prussians would clearly have a manpower numbers advantage in a second day of action.

St. Cyr had held his ground for a day
The Prussians coming from the north had only just arrived all 'on table'
The east Prussian columns had also only just arrived

So the decision of stay or go for a second day of action was to fall back on orders sent to each commander:

For the French:
"Orders as previously to St Cyr (Corbineau):
1. Prepare embrasures and redoubts on three sides to defend against Bulow's command, the Prusso-Russians in Potsdam and the former besiegers of Magedburg.
2. If attacked, hold out for as long as possible. Line of retreat is towards Premnitz (and if necessary on to Seehausen).
3. If the Prusso-Russians withdraw a large proportion of their force towards Berlin, attack the remaining defenders. If all Prusso-Russians withdraw, march towards Berlin."
For the Prussians:

"Attack across the Spree and drive off the French south of Potsdam."

This made staying the only option for Bülow, and retreat the only sensible and ordered one for St. Cyr.

view of the field from the south at end of day
St Cyr was now in retreat to Premnitz:

French survivors retreating
 Bülow held the field with most of 4th Korps and the remains of 3rd Korps:

Prussians hold the field at dawn on the 24th August 1813
While von Hirschfeld retreats away with his Landwher force:

Another excellent battle puzzle put together from the Campaign of Nations game.


Rafael Pardo said...

A great campaign and a nice AAR!

James Fisher, FINS said...

We'll take the draw with XIV Corps in reasonable shape as a pretty reasonable result for the French!