Friday, November 15, 2013

Return to Marienberg - a Campaign of Nations AAR

General Barclay de Tolly was faced with a critical problem.

General of Infantry Barclay de Tolly
He could not move on through the Bohemian mountains towards Dresden without eliminating the threat of a French, Italian and Württemberg allied Corps under the command of General Bertrand.  For if he moved on then this Corps could strike at his very thin and vulnerable supply line, which would force him to turn back from Dresden to re-open supply.  Such a turning back would then cause his allied Austro-Prussian-Russian force to become trapped between Bertrand and Marshal Macdonald, whom he had managed to force north out of the Marienberg region.

The time for action was now, as the orders had come from high command that Dresden was to be de Tolly's next destination.  General Barclay summoned Feldzeugmeister Graf I. Gyulai, as it would be his Austrian 3rd Army Abteilung (Corps) that would have to perform the storming of the urban area assault.

Général de division Count Bertrand
Général de division Count Bertrand, commanded the IV Corps, three Divisions of French, Italians and Württemberg forces, with added artillery from a destroyed Division in battle only five days before.  A fordable river line and the built up urban areas of Marienberg were all that he had for defenses.  The 6th Light Cavalry Division was also on hand to help hold back the 10 Regiments of Cossacks and 3 Squadrons of Uhlans that that Russians had to rush him with along with the Austrian 3rd Army Korps.

What follows now is the after action report for the Campaign of Nations battle that was played out on 10 November 2013.  The most lead on my temporary table to date.

The French allied force was deployed out first, then the Austro-Russian allied force was able to decide on a battle plan and deploy.  The results were to have the Austrians lined up to assault the urban areas and the Russian Cavalry hidden 'reverse slope' and held back for a few turns so as to allow French reserves to be deployed to hold back the Austrian assault, then allowing the Russian cavalry to press on into the French flank.  While a nice idea, the execution of this attack would fall onto the shoulders of Austrian infantry battalions that had not fought in urban areas before.  Then again neither had most of the Italians facing them ...

Table deployment

Italians held the urban area

Central French command and the Corps artillery

12th Division was the 'second line' of French forces

Austrians formed up to assault

masses of Russian cavalry await the order to charge

mixed Austrian light Division was to flank the town

while columns of Austrian line Infantry stormed the defences

General Barlcay de Tolly's HQ was on high ground overlooking the field of action
Right from the start the lower artillery numbers on the Austro-Russian side was telling.  While the batteries that they had did do some damage to the French, the counter-fire from the Württemberg and Italians was equal to them and the French reserve and 12th Division had not even started firing!

The Austrian assault columns had to face this artillery barrage while advancing, then failed to break into any of the built up areas, though there were a number of charges over the bridge and at the river line.

turn 2 and the Austrian assault was engaged

many columns stormed over the bridge, while others charged the buildings across the fordable river

turn 3 was more hand to hand in the town

first bright spot for the Austrians was the defeat of an Italian battalion

these cheveauxleger were able to defeat Italians, though the Division commander paid for the victory with his lfe

again and again Austrians charged over the bridge into a wounded Italian battalion while other troops fired into them from the surrounding buildings

there was an entire Division committed to the assault, likewise the Italian division was on defense

Austrian lines march to the stream to break the point of contact between Italian and Württemberg divisions

the Württemberg force holds its ground and scores hits on Austrian artillery

12th Division has been alerted to the mass of Russian cavalry just beyond the 18" detection range, now moving to deploy squares and have artillery setup to protect the flank

Turn four was the start of the Russian Cavalry action, with 3 regiments of Cossacks leading the way, however the word had been sent on turn 2 to the French 12th Division (using SHAKO rules it takes time for orders to be processed) that there were large Russian Cavalry forces just outside the 18" detection range (again a SHAKO rule).  So the 12th Division was to deploy in readiness to repel these horsemen and had started on the process ... would there be enough time?

turn 4, saw the first casualties score 1:1

12th Division forming squares to repel Cossacks

Austrians break through near the town

more death at the bridge

the artillery duel was being lost by Austrians, with more guns becoming silenced

Turn five brought the Austro-Russian effort to a near fever pitch.  There was a hole on the French line!  Both on the far left of the French line (where only a battery of artillery lay with no protection) and in the center of the field ... though there was a line of artillery batteries that would soon see the center cleared totally of any attackers.  De Tolly decided to commit his four Regiments of his Headquarters guard to assault the far flank and break into the French rear if at all possible, unless the Russians could inflict casualties there could be no chance of forcing out Bertrand from his position.

turn 5, score shifted to 6:1 in favor of the French

12th Division was stretched to the maximum in area deployed in squares to fend off the Russian Cossacks

Italians and Württemberg forces pushed back in the center

the bridge in town continued to be a scene of carnage as the Austrians massed for another charge while the Italians grimly held their ground
Now six turns into the battle and the situation looked poor for the Austro-Russian forces.  They were down 6 units to the French 1 and had a Division simply flee from the battlefield.  While the center had been opened by Austrians, there were no troops capable of exploiting this success.  Everything was committed to battle.

turn 6, no reserves left for the Austro-Russians, while the French 6th Light Cavalry had not moved at all

Cossacks formed columns to slice across the French flank

Fully committed, General Barclay could only watch now to see if his forces could break the French defenses

artillery duel was still being won by the Württemberg batteries

scene of the Cossacks rolling to the flank from the Austrian artillery position
By turn 7, only the dieing had to come about, it was clear that the Austro-Russian force simply did not have the manpower to exploit their early successes.

Uhlans were sent into the fray where the Cossacks had been

some Ulans were kept in reserve to support the forward attack, they would face artillery from 12th Division

the Cossacks of de Tolly's HQ continued to rush the flank

while at the bridge there were no more ordered battalions to get across with as they were all rallying

the HQ guard Cossacks paid for the crossing and they did kill that unguarded battery
Turn 8 was the end of the battle, for the Austro-Russian losses were too great to continue.

turn 8 start score 9:2 in favor of French

one more charge across the bridge was attempted

12th Division was now firing artillery into Russian light cavalry

tipping point as the score moved to 11:2, Russian cavalry were taking heavy losses

meanwhile French light cavalry had not moved at all

the HQ Cossacks had crossed the river and there were no troops to help them win anything

de Tolly would only have to retire a half mile to be beyond the French batteries, though with these losses there would be no though of further assaults. 
Stalemate in the Bohemian mountains?

Forces composition at the end of battle:

Russian cavalry were badly mauled
the 3rd Division of the Austrian 3rd Army Korps was destroyed along with 1/2 of the foot artillery of the Korps
Württemberg forces took the brunt of the attack

French Light Cavalry remained in reserve

French Corps artillery delivered killing blows

Italians sustained some losses, mostly due to the unsupported artillery

12th Division was a cavalry killing machine


Phil said...

Looks like a great game, you've done a very nice report...Beautiful pics and great elements of terrain, I love your wheel!

Archduke Piccolo said...

That battle must have been really something to fight; Barclay gave it his all, and then some! Excellent AAR and photo essay.

Having played a bit of Shako myself I know something of the difficulty storming a built up area can be with this rule set (and so it should be, and all). My last battle with Shako, I tried all bally night to storm a village that happened to form the extreme flank of the enemy position. Normally I would simply have masked it, but as it formed the extreme flank of the enemy position, it seemed to me that once in my hands, possession of the place would unhinge the enemy position and I could roll up his flank.

I'm a genius that way: come up with a really really good plan, and watch it, as ever, turn into custard - the shark infested kind. The enemy threw his dice which might as well had sixes on every other face, and my guys got nowhere. When you play the odds they have a way of turning around and biting you in the assets.

That was a long time ago now. As often happens in Christchurch, a rule set has year or two of popular activity, and then it vanishes, as if it had never been. I haven't seen a Shako game these 15 years...

Mind you Volley and Bayonet has kept its popularity here. Can't think why...

Jiminho said...

Thanks for playing the game out, and for the stirring report. While reading the first paragraphs, I figured that you had been reading my mind De Tolly's thinking matched my own! Pretty much a last chance to force the French to back off. The Allies have had some good luck up till now but it will be very hard going around Marienberg now. Hats off to MacDonald and Bertrand for having kept the Allies at bay so far.

Rafael Pardo said...

A great battle! Thanks for sharing the AAR and pictures. It looks like the Allies were having more troubles than in the real world to advance from Bohemia

MurdocK said...

Thank you gents on the terrain and minis comments. They are all my own paintjobs and most of them are my own castings.

Yes Jim the strategic situation was dictating the urgent NEED to win for the Austro-Russians.

Rafa, we have started with the same ground and the same troops, the commanders have deployed in totally different ways and the performance of the troops has varied across the number of game tables and players on three continents that we have used.

In this case the Bohemian passes did not get the same volume of troops as historically, though the long-term results may still work out the same depending on what happens now east of Dresden and north of the Elbe.