Saturday evening we fought the first battle of the new three-game campaign set in Austria 1809. Chris, Greg C. and I command the Austrian forces while Greg R., Eric, John and Terry command the French and Bavarian forces. I am acting as the Austrian commander in chief and Greg R. as the French commander in chief.
In this first battle, I wished to act on the defensive – being passive on the field – and allowing the French to attack us. I also wished to spend morale points on some earthworks. After bleeding the French a little, we’d go over onto the attack in the next battle. There were two problems with my wish for the defensive however…
The first issue was that I was unaware of the topology of the field. My fault, I left the map sheet at Brent’s. So, when I arrived to survey the field, there was a central hill that would have dominated the defensive position.
The second issue is that one of the Austrian commanders is not keen on defense. He, Greg, really did not like the idea of being passive. That’s cool, my command, unlike the real Austrian command, is not an aristocracy…so, after much debate, I opted for a defensive posture that could swing onto the attack given circumstances.
Unbeknown to us all, was a third factor that rendered an Austrian defense undesirable. The French army was not rated very well for the fight and their commanders had also opted for a defensive posture. One small French command had not yet arrived at the field when hostilities began, and the defensive-natured terrain was on their side of the field.
So the armies deployed for battle – the Austrians deployed conservatively with a plan to take and hold the central heights while fighting defensively on the flanks. The French deployed along 2/3 of the field in a string defensive line guarded by artillery…but…with one strong-looking striking force. The French commander deployed a division of Bavarians (4 infantry units and 1 artillery unit), a division of French (3 infantry units) and a division of Cavalry (4 cavalry units) along their far right flank in a position to smash into the Austrian left. The Austrian left was held by the division I was commanding (2 infantry units, 2 cavalry units and 1 artillery unit) and had only open terrain to stand in. This flanking attack would turn out to be the point of decision in the battle.
As the battle unfolded, Chris’ Hungarian division, with no opposition before it swept forward and seized a small town to anchor it’s right while facing left to pressure the end of the French defensive line. Near the end of the game, the Hungarians began to dislodge the French line while losing the town to some French troops arriving late onto the field.
Because of the positioning of the French artillery, we abandoned the desire to take the central heights. Instead, Greg used it to screen the advance of an infantry division to support the Hungarians. This division included our best troops – a unit of converged grenadiers.
Greg’s other division did not undertake much movement due to a combination of circumstances. First of all, the aforementioned French artillery dominated an expanse of open terrain eliminating the possibility of any advance without undue losses. Secondly, the commanding officer of the division was not well rated, resulting in some delay and inflexibility. Thirdly, with a French/Bavarian force likely to crash down upon my division and roll up the flank their positioning was good for support.
In fact, this division would lend valuable support to mine – and – formed a small hedgehog of squares on a ridgeline when it looked as though the French cavalry may be in a position to exploit matters.
As mentioned earlier, the big French force possibly targeting my division was to be the point of decision. Indeed the French players said that they moved ahead with the attack given that my small division was outnumbered almost 2:1.
So, the attack commenced. The Bavarian infantry moved ahead in lines, supported by Frenchmen on their left that moved through some very dense woods (Class-III). The French cavalry followed closely behind the Bavarians in attack columns.
My plan to deal with the attack relied on two things: common sense and fate. I determined to form a line with my two infantry units with the artillery in the center of this line. I wanted to be sure that I remained out of musket range of the woods – to deprive the enemy of this valuable cover. Behind this line, I formed my cavalry (cuirassier and dragoons) into attack columns packed in just behind my leftmost infantry unit. I hoped that I could do some damage with musketry and cause some opportunities for my cavalry. I assumed that my division would be wiped out and that my job was to drain energy from the enemy so that Greg’s division could save the flank.
The Bavarian infantry rounded the woods and came under artillery fire from my line. I was lucky enough to catch the Bavarian artillery in limbered status and drove it from the field before it could see any action. It then appeared that the French and Bavarian infantry wished to coordinate their attack on my line, and that would be a wise decision, because the Bavarians halted and did not advance further on two opportunities.
Once ready, the Bavarians advanced – pushed on by the French commander – it turned out that they came on unsupported by the French infantry anyway. The Bavarians – the worst rated division in the French army this evening – fought well, earning the respect of their Germanic enemies, but were ineffective. The field in this area became a swarm of furious melee actions. In the end, one of my infantry units held its ground in spite of tough losses. The other unit lost few men but did give a little ground. But the star of the action was the artillery battery – it won two melees with infantry! As the Bavarians fell back my line was hurting, but intact…but the Bavarians were reduced by half with their remaining units battered severely. They played no further role in the battle.
At this point, disorganized French infantry finally began to pour out of the woods. My rightmost infantry unit fought hard but was forced to fall back, exposing the brave artillery battery to a flank attack which destroyed it. The French infantry also destroyed my leftmost infantry unit. My cavalry struck back routing a French unit from the fight. Greg rushed in an infantry unit to stem the French infantry advance and did indeed halt them. My remaining infantry unit, still in good shape was allowed to fall back.
The French cavalry then showed up. My cavalry, outnumbered 2:1 and a little worn from action with the infantry stood little chance. My dragoons sold their lives dearly and allowed the cuirassier to stop one thrust. On the ridgeline behind the melees, we formed a couple units into square – there was little to prevent the French cavalry from riding up at this point. My division was reduced to one slightly worn infantry unit and one expended cuirassier unit. The unit Greg sent in was also slightly worn.
At this point, the circumstances were present for the French to seal the deal – but – they had run out of army morale points and lost the battle. They had suffered too many losses in the battle. The Austrians had only three morale points remaining.
It was a fun fight. I expected to be in a “quiet sector” of the field and instead was the target of the attack! My division was almost destroyed, but inflicted the same losses on two enemy divisions…and…my losses would have been a little more severe without the timely support of Greg’s division.
I look forward to the next fight. This time I do know what the field looks like! The field is gonna be a tough fight. My army does have shovels in the train, Greg hopes we never use them – but – since the enemy is also reading this post, we’ll keep everyone in suspense!
|Austrian and French movements in the battle...|
|The next battlefield!|