Tuesday, April 08, 2014

TWIN BATTLES of LUCKAU - AAR for the Campaign of Nations

Maréchal Oudinot, Duke of Reggio
 A full after action report for the Campaign of Nations game on two battles that took place on 2 Sept 1813 (fictional) in and west of Luckau.

Maréchal Oudinot was faced with orders to retreat west with his mixed force of Guard Light Cavalry, VI, VII and XII Infantry Corps, I and parts of II Cavalry Corps.  VII Corps and the Guard Light Cavalry who had fought a retreat from the north on the 1st of September we set as the vanguard, VI Corps and remnants of II Cav were to be the rearguard at Luckau until noon at least.  Likely to have to fight off the Austrians starting in the morning.




General der Kavallerie Blücher
 GdK Blücher, was commanding a large force of Russian and Austrian Cavalry and his own Prussian I Korps.  The Allied cavalry had pushed back VII Corps and elements of the Guard yesterday.  That night the patrols reported back that the Guard foot seen north in the woods were dug in and as such not likely to move. Whereas the French in Luckau were making moves to the west that seemed to them to be the first stages in a flanking move against the Austrians, who were known to be preparing to attack.  Blücher at once sent off this information to Allied GHQ while ordering the cavalry to swing west of Luckau so as to interfere with any such flank action.

Feldmarschall Fürst Carl zu Schwarzenberg
The note from Blücher arrived shortly after midnight at GHQ, along with an analysis of other cavalry patrols data ... they suggested that the French in Luckau were not preparing to flank, but rather to retreat west.
Sensing an opportunity to catch the French in motion, FM Schwarzenberg decided before dawn to assemble a fast-moving strike force from the Guard and Reserve right at the same location with GHQ.  He pulled some 30 horse guns and a Division strength of Guard Light Cavalry including the Don Guard Cossacks whom would follow him to the Luckau battle site at first light.


This After Action Report will take on a different form than others, as the battle was fought on two widely separated battlefields.  One, at Luckau, the other many miles west of the city.  the map here gives some indication of the overall situation on the night of 1 Sept 1813:

Luckau overall situation, with Allied forces on three sides of the French positions
The WEST battle started first, with Oudinot having the vanguard pass successfully westward, it was XII Corps that would be having to turn to face the Allied cavalry, much of it heavy cavalry, while the 1st Cavalry Corps would be held back in reserve, Général de division Latour-Maubourg would be on hand to call up divisions of the 1st Cavalry Corps as needed when directed by Maréchal Oudinot.

At 10h00 on 2 Sept,  Blücher was still some hours from the battlefield when he received a note from GHQ, FM Schwarzenberg was going to Luckau himself and the note further said that the French moves were not a flanking move but a retreat.  Blücher could cut off the retreat, if the Austrians could hold down the troops at Luckau then they could surround the town and force the surrender of any surviving French troops.  At last an opportunity to strike a blow against the French war machine was at hand.  Onward he shouted to the I Korps Cavlary ... they would be needed to hammer at the French columns as the Allied horse punched a hole!

WEST battle at 10h00 - allied deploy zone marked to left

French in columns, with leading Division , Cavalry and artillery already set

Oudinot knew that Allied forces were coming, not that the Prussian I Korps was to arrive.

Hoping to not have to use the I Cavalry Corps, they were all kept well south of the initial action line

Russian Hussars and Dragoons arrive under the command of Ribbentrop

by 10h50 the Cossack of Ribbentrop were moving left

Italian Division had cleared the woods and was moving west

The French position was shifting left to cover the whole of the open zone between the two woods areas

Borosodin commanded three brigades of Dragoons and a Brigade of Cossacks on the extreme right of the Allied line, beyond an area of woods that cut off any direct line of communications with Ribbentrop
Sometime during the first 50 minutes of action the French fired a few testing shots to see if the foot batteries could reach to the Russian Hussars ... out of range.

Blücher heard these testing shots as he sent off his response to Schwarzenberg, The Prussians would race to cut off all retreat from Luckau if Schwarzenberg would trap them in the town, together all the French were to be prisoners this day.

Schwarzenberg was still some distance from Luckau as the Austrian commander, Feldmarschal-lieutenant Graf Radetzky had adjusted his troops to cover against a possible flank attack, then set his Divisions to assault Luckau.

LUCKAU had been fortified by the troops of VI Corps for some 8 days now, 2nd Cavalry Corps had also come to assist in more flechettes and redoubts set outside the buildings of the town also Général de division Baron Drouot of the Imperial staff had come to take active command of this rear-guard action.

LUCKAU at noon

Allied deployment for battle

French defenses

Headquarters (note that it was Général de division Baron Drouot in command)

Austrian forces braced to advance.

French troops were in their fortified positions

Shortly past noon the cannon of both sides started a furious bombardment

Austrian brigades were too far forward and moved back to get out of artillery range after taking casualties
The roar of the cannon in Luckau could be heard to the WEST.

right at noon WEST field was still mostly quiet

Italians continue to maneuver westward to the left of French line

Allied right, the Dragoons formed a line of brigades

in the Center, Ribbentrop now knew that Blucher was coming, held his line

The Austrian and Russian Cuirassier arrive

Allied center, now solid, between Dragoons and Cuirassier

The French still had not fired, holding to see if the Bavarians could also move further to the west, as they covered the road from Luckau

Oudinot knew that the battle at Luckau was joined from the rumble of cannon.  Now he also knew that Blucher was coming here, west of Luckau

Italian Division deploys on the French left

massed Allied heavy cavalry

Austrian Cuirassier

Allied far right under Borosodin, holding their line - taunting the French Light cavalry facing them ... who will charge first?

past noon (closer to 13h00 = pulse 2 of turn 3) Blucher arrives!

Now both battles were joined and the Allies stood to gain a great deal with a Victory from Blucher and at least a stalemate from Schwarzenberg at LUCKAU proper:

14h10 LUCKAU French Cavalry had moved right

Austrians massed for advance

Austrians made ready to assault

14h30 Schwartzenberg arrives with horse force

Russian Guard Light Cavalry

Austrians assault French lines at LUCKAU

Schwartzenberg now takes active command - informing all that these French must not escape

Original commander, Radetzky now takes on role as wing commander to Schwartzenberg

Hune and the Russian Guard Horse Artillery and Reserve Artillery
While to the WEST Blücher had assembled the heavy cavalry of Russia and Austria into a single line ...

14h30 WEST battlefiled, the Cavalry is in a line to center and Prussian I Korps arrives to the left flank of Allied position (seen bottom right in the image)

nearly all forces are in the area by 14h30

a powerful horse line is just out of artillery range

Ribbentrop takes on his role as wing commander now, grateful to leave the main decisions to Blucher now

Allied right wing, ready to pounce, as more French horse guns move up

Oudinot has moved west to confer with Latour-Mauberg on the Cavalry employment

the horse line from the French view (as seen on Facebook)

massive line of Dragoons, Hussars and Cuirassier

15h10 WEST battlefield, the horse are let loose!

French batteries have an over-abundance of targets as the Cuirassier close in for the kill

Prussians move into the hilltop, to form a line behind the assaulting horse

15h20 West battlefield, the horse are fully engaged, Prussian batteries can be seen assembling on the hilltop behind the horsemen

Even the Cossacks managed a victory in forcing back the Bavarians on the woods road.

at the French lines, carnage as men, horse and cannon clash in heavy battle action

Russian and Austrian cannon join the fray

15h20 WEST battle, turn 4 was to see 4 pulses ... by that point the commanders have virtually no control over their men and random results can be frustrating

needing to pull back their heavy horse, the commanders rolled to "hold" nearly all across the battle ravaged center of the field.

French batteries managed, time and again to withdraw from destruction while delivering hits to the charging horsemen

while unmasked batteries let loose at point-blank range - utterly shattering the 'hold orders' horse before them

the arriving Prussian horse did manage to get in an attack in this chaos

While Austrian Cuirassier, having opportunity to destroy French cannon were in 'hold' conditions


Oudinot now had to roll vs having his army retreat, the roll came up less than 14 (the amount needed to force the retreat), though next turn he would have to roll again unless there were more units called into the battle.  Latour-Mauberge and 1st Cavalry Corps would now have to all come to the battle - there were just too many Allied Cuirassier for XII Corps infantry and artillery to deal with!

In LUCKAU the Austrian assaults had reached the French defenses, and the casualties started to mount, with the first brigades of Austrian infantry falling ...

LUCKAU 16h30 score 1:0 for French as cannon on both sides continued to roar out

French cavalry, under Sebastiani had ridden out from their cover, now Russian Guard cavalry assaulted them in the open

French brigades in the east of Luckau are re-deployed to the west as French cannon had been lost while others continue to belch out fire

The French lines hold, forcing back Austrian Jagers into canister range of guns

The death toll on the Austrian assault brigades was high

out-flanked by Cossacks French cavalry are attacked in the process of defending II Cavalry Corps artillery

new French batteries are pushed into position where others had been destroyed by Austrian fire

French 2nd Cavalry Corps artillery, making ready to take on any survivors of the cavalry tangle brawl happening before them

Artillery were great man-killers in the period, as a simulation here they are doing the same grim task
To the WEST Blücher could only dimly hear the guns from Luckau, for his own were roaring on loudly ... a maddening delay by the Cuirassier had now permitted French horsemen to close on them.  It would be a clash of heavy cavalry in the center of the field as Austrian Cuirassier and French Cuirassier met knee to knee!

17h00 WEST battlefield, the Allies close in for the kill

French Cuirassier hammered a brigade of Prussian Grenadiers, just as they were to overrun the French guns

the far west battle was all but over, as the Russian Dragoons retreated, Borosodin dead in battle

in a 1:1 meeting at the center of the field a force of Austrian Cuirassier met a French Cuirassier - no flank just 1:1           The French won the contest outright, with the Austrians taking all but one hit possible, while inflicting only one hit on their French opponents!

The carnage was massive as now French Cuirassier charged over the dead to reach more Allied cavalry

on the Allied left, in the woods, the Cossacks were halted by the Bavarians

all though the center dead men an horses littered the field

Russian Cuirassier had been shifted to be able to flank the French guns, now they simply stood 'Hold orders' taking over again, or was Duka (the Russian commander) aware that the battle in the center of the field was not going so well for the Allies now?

17h30 West Battlefield, still maximum chaos, with both sides tied 7:7

The French won initiative (with both sides using command die to force re-rolls)

using the initiative the French Cuirassier now suffered a few 'hold' orders, though enough of them did press home to assault the Prussian Uhlan and Landwher Cavalry.

The results were expected, a rout of the light horsemen

French heavies were everywhere dealing out killing blows

only the infantry of I Korps was a barrier that the retreating horsemen could seek refuge behind

not many would make that refuge ...
Back in LUCKAU, with darkness approaching, Schwartzenberg decided to press home with the Russian horse and keep on the pressure with his guns, permitting what infantry could withdraw from the assault to do so and sending in the second wave.  The Russian guns under Generalmajor Hüne, were out of range for his command, so Hüne would have to act on his own ... his choice was, "ATTACK!"

19h00 at LUCKAU score was 2:0 in favor of French

The Russian Guard cavalry had eliminated their French opposition horse, only to be left totally open to French Horse batteries ... about 36 guns!

the no-mans-land right south of Luckau

French command had plugged the guns hole and continued firing on Allied batteries

the horse guns of 2nd Cavalry Corps had a clear shot at the Russian Guard light cavalry

within moments the score was even at 2:2 when the French cavalry was finally ridden down

the Russian Guard horse were obliterated by the French guns

on the French right there were no more targets

the Austrians had retreated back with heavy losses

Hune's folly was to push his guns into canister range, the plan was to blast a hole ... problem was there were no allied troops to exploit it, even if it worked.
The whole 12 mile area was echoing with the ongoing cannon fire at both battlefields, darkness loomed as did dark visions in the mind of Blucher at the WEST battlefield ...

19h30 WEST battlefield, Blucher's situation is in collapse.  Blucher is personally staying so that his troops can escape as best as possible.  More French light cavalry from 1st Cavalry Corps have arrived and smash the Allied artillery of Russia and Austria only the Prussian guns may escape this reverse!

19h45 West battlefield score is 14:7 in French favor, Blucher flees from French Chasseurs
The pursuit was on at the WEST battle, with the French having so much light cavalry that they overwhelm the allies in their desperate attempt at countering them.  More infantry and cavalry are cut down and most importantly some 36 guns are overrun and shattered by the French light horse as darkness descends ... the roar of cannon from Luckau continues.

LUCKAU at 21h30 score 3:2 in favor of French

Russian cavalry rallies at the rear

Austrian command holds all lines, no more brigades will be wasted on the assault now

French artillery shatter another battery and continue to wound brigades that had fallen back from the assault

Hune's attack seen as folly, loosing some 12 cannon to a French infantry sally from the town

the Austrian left would not advance this day

Hune managed to get the Guard battery out and they set-up to punish the French

22h20 LUCKAU, with darkness falling only artillery would be active now

Austrian batteries in the center again try for killing Frenchmen in the town of Luckau

exhausted across the Austrian lines, consideration of a second day of battle began

No way to hold a second day, Bertrand and Druot would fire the guns till the powder ran low, then withdraw under cover of darkness ...
By 23h00 all was quiet in the Luckau region.  Blücher would find cover of night to end the French pursuit, and learn that his scattered troops could shelter in Luckau itself by dawn on the 3rd of September 1813.

Schwartzenberg, upon seeing that the French were not going to stay, sometime after 3 am, would ride back to the Monarch's Headquarters to snatch a little sleep before the breakfast meeting with the Tsar and his own Emperor Francis.

LUCKAU Forces:

Austrian Infantry

Austrian Advance Guard

Headquarters and Light Divisions

Russian detachment from Guard and Reserve Army
All that remains of the Austrian Cuirassier

Blucher's rump of Prussians

The Russian surviving cavalry from the WEST battle
The French forces were scattered along the roads west of Luckau:

1st Cavalry Corps came away in best health

Oudinot's XII Corps was all but wiped out
Sebastiani's 2nd Cavalry Corps was now a mass of horse guns ... no cavalrymen at all

VI Corps was able to disengage from Luckau and retreat westward ...
Final result would be a minor French victory, while the defeat of Blucher was a solid victory, the stand off at Luckau had made it imperative that Blucher be defeated, thus risking the 1st Cavalry Corps and their valuable horsemen.  Had the first charge of the French Cuirassier gone in favor of the Austrians ... would that result be different?

Sebastiani was his own worst enemy at Luckau, sending out the horse early, leaving them vulnerable to the Russian guard horse ... admittedly he did not know Schwartzenberg was going to send them out.

Général de division Sébastiani
The Austrian infantry stormed the defenses of Luckau, knowing that they were not likely to get in, yet also knowing that to permit the French to depart would be to leave Blucher at their mercy.

Austrian batteries had good effect on the French defenders - taking out a battery and many foot casualties

Grimly the Austrian foot assaulted

7 comments:

Rafael Pardo said...

Wow! This was a big battle!
I love your Bluecher vignette!
Regards
Rafa

MurdocK said...

Thank you Rafael, I did up the two minis of Blucher and Gneisneau just for the battle ... they have been on the back shelf till later this year (in the plan) for doing 100 Days, but since Blucher himself (our campaign player) was going to be taking command of Blucher & forces in person - I thought it fitting to have him for the table ... the flocking was done the night before (so literally just in time)

Archduke Piccolo said...

Wow! Talk about a ferocious battle - particularly in the west - something of a Pyrrhic victory for the French. For a good deal of it I thought the Allied horse was going to break through - reinforcements must have arrived just in time.

I like the light notes that accompany the many photos: just enough to keep the reader in the ... erm ... picture. Excellent narrative: excellent battle.

Jiminho said...

Epic! What a battle, I'm tired just getting to the end of the AAR. If that is the Battle of Luckau, I wonder what the battle of Leipzig will look like? Perhaps this was it!

Thanks for preparing and posting the report
Jim

MurdocK said...

Thanks Jim,

I get the sense hat this Luckau battle is the 'Dresden' of this campaign.

Both armies are somewhat depleted now and the position of each on the map of Saxony and Brandenburg are going to need some re-orienting before another large action is likely to take place.

I could be wrong though, as there are some fresh forces close enough to re-engage, however I expect that both commanders are going to want to re-fit and re-position before the next encounter ...

MurdocK said...

Thank you Piccolo, I am curious if my story-telling is of any use sometimes.

James Fisher, FINS said...

Great write-up and photos David. As the others have said, epic and ferocious! Good to see some French cavalry get away intact!