Saturday, February 23, 2013

Marengo Scenario 7 with Carnage and Glory II.

Once again Tom Garnett and Keith Rocco hosted a game of Marengo. This was Tom's 7th scenario of the battle of Marengo "First Battle of the Consular Guard" June 14, 300pm. These guys have put together a string of excellent games. I remain very pleased with how the games are run and the pleasant atmosphere that is created .

The Austrians initial plan was to consolidate its troops from the varied entry points and then advance eastward through the center of the field. I was given command of Brigade Gottesheim with 6 to 8 squadrons of dragoons. In the Carnage and Glory rules, my command was divided into 3 command elements. These were named 573, 574, and 575. The Austrians essentially had 2 divisions and an advanced guard.

The French won the initiative, but gave it to the Austrians. I advanced on turn one in an effort to uncover the tree line to the north. This tree line was against a water obstacle and appeared to have battalions of French infantry hiding behind it. This would be a major obstacle to the advance of 2 brigades of Austrians. By pushing forward, I was able to see around and down the tree line so that no suprises would be present. This helped my teammates push forward faster. Fortunately, no enemy troops were positioned behind the trees and "creek". I divided my forces a small bit to force an isolated french battery to make some difficult decisions and have some of my command outside of their arc of fire. So at this point in the game, I have advanced 1/3 of the way across the board to cover the advance of my trailing infantry command. I tried to be cautious, but it turned out that I wasn't cautious enough.

The French cavalry arrived on board during their part of the turn. GDP Duvigneau's command was commanded by Chris Maine who ran them out to support the battery.

Subsequently, the French once again won the initiative. Chris aggressively (and it turned out appropriately) charged with 2 of his commands. I had ordered countercharges and so met his troops at the gallop. Interestingly, 2 pass throughs (aka draws) occurred. Unfortunately for me, one of my commands (2 of my dragoon squadrons) retired to the board edge as a result. This left both the French and Austrian cavalry commands back to back on the center of the board. It also uncovered by supporting infantry behind me.

On turn 3 Chris then carried his charge forward and struck the Austrian infantry. He had 6e and 8e dragoons carry this out. The French hit the front ranks of the Austrian line and drove back one battalion and crippled another. The French cavalry were severely depleted in both manpower and fatigue and were ineffective for the rest of the game. Bluntly, thr French cavalry did not need to be effective anymore as they essentially won the game by turn 3. I had very limited choices myself. I had the battery in front of me and one more French cavalry command adjacent to it. Behind me was the chaos that Chris was inflicting with his dragoons. I ordered charges for a second straight turn. The 2 commands of my dragoons pushed forward and simultaneously met the charging chassurs and hit the isolated battery. The commands named "573" hit the French chausseurs and the battery on the right was overrun by the "575". These charges were not difficult decisions to make as I was isolated and threatened by these commands to my front. My cavalry was able to create a draw against the chausseurs and overran the battery.

By turn 4, I was effectively done. The combination of the fatigue created by the charges and the losses created with the charges and cannister had destroyed my commands willingness to fight. My Brigade was forced to retreat due to brigade morale issues. I watched the rest of the game as an observer and performing mandatory movements toward my own board edge. It looked like very little entertainment was left. But in the middle of the turn, as the French dragoons were retreating toward their lines after roughing up the Austrian infantry, the dragoons took a pot shot from the 12lb position guns in the center of the Austrian line. As part of the casualties, any attached officer was wounded. Just like that, Napoleon died from canister which struck him in the head. The general was attempting to rally these retreating dragoons in what should have been a harmless event.

Additional morale issues cleaned out lots of troops for both sides on turn 4. This morale collapse included my command as it received mandatory retreat orders.

Turn 5 saw the French set up a line in the wheat field. The Austrian and French had a stand up fight in the middle of the field. Evidence of the brittleness of the Austrians continues as line troops start to retreat/rout without taking siginificant casualties. My last unit retreated off the board.

Turn 6 saw the the Austrian attack peter out as the morale fell below the acceptable threshold. The consular guard initiated a charge in the center of the table. Brigade Frimont had to repulse the French dragoons, but was not able to do so. Part of the cavalry fell back and the 1st kaiser fought to a draw/pass through. Unfortunately this was not good enough. Now the rest of the infantry in the center of the line was threatened by the French cavalry.

At turn 7, the Austrians decided to consolidate their position. By this time, the game was fairly obviously decided and so the Austrians decided to try to form up and try to inflict casualties. Unfortunately morale issues kept the Austrians from doing this well.

Turn 8 saw everyone trying to fire without increasing fatigue except the French consular cavalry who charged the center again and collapsed the Austrian center. The Austrians felt at this point that their only way to win the game was to increase the importance of Napoleon dying. Despite our protests that the death of Napoleon was stragegically of great importance, the game gave the victory to the French.

This was another good game with great people. The French did well with their game plan. Chris made an excellent decision to charge into the mass of advancing infantry. His command was ruined, but he effectively won it for the French. The charge by the cavalry was able to not only force the Austrians to deploy and keep them from getting to the board edge, but it also created huge fatigue and morale issues. In fact it created one of those miserable gaming experiences that no one wants to ever put up with. One of my teammates gaming days could be summerized in the following paragraph.

Dave entered on game two while a charge was going on in front of him. He was struck by this charge on turn 3 and was unable to repulse the cavalry. One of these battalions routed of the board. On Turn 4 he resumed his march but had to march through rough terrain and so continued to accumulate fatigue. As a result, on game turn 6 he was told his morale had collapsed and he could not move closer to the enemy. He had 2 turns of one of his battalions firing, but this was the limit of his participation. Not a great way to spend your day.

The Austrian command lost 2000 men. My "575" dragoons (squad iii) took home battle honors for its draw in a charge and subsequently overrunning the French battery. All of this is hollow, as essentially one charge dictated the game. Chris made the tactical choice of the game and won it with the associated ripples. Well played my man.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Figuring out Lubino

Barclay was furious. " Go back to your post," he stormed, " and get yourself killed ! If you come back I'll shoot you ! "- General Barclays answer to Tuchkov's request for reinforcements. (Foord page 172)

EDITORS NOTE: I have sent out two posts about Lubino (Valutina Gora)to active napoleonic forums with hope of enlisting aid from any direction. I havent gotten lucky enough to get any Russian speaking/reading contributors to expand my resources yet. If I do I will certainly amend this post.

Immediately after Smolensk, the French army had a chance to catch up with the last 1/3 of the retreating Russian army 8 to 10 miles to the east of Smolensk. The battle has an impressive number of names: Lobino, Loubino, Valutina Gora, Valuotina-Gora, Sacred Valley, Lubino, Waloutina-Gora, Stragan Brook. This makes it difficult to find all the sources on the web.

On the evening of August 18th, 1812, General Baron Barclay de Tolley withdrew his army from north and east of Smolensk after the fight for that town 2 days earlier. The General divided his command into 2 columns (a northern and southern column) to try to evacuate the region faster by using 2 roads/tracks that went through the countryside parallel to and north of, the Smolensk-Moscow Road. If he had used the Smolensk-Moskow road, as General Bagration had already done, Barclay would have been under the risk of artillery fire and organized pursuit for the first few miles of the journey. Instead he tried to use the terrain and a strong rear guard to mask his departure along a more circuitous route. Unfortunately, despite an apparently sound plan, decidely poor staff work and that very same terrain conspired to really impede his march through the woods northeast of town. The northern column, containing General Doctorov's command took off first and marched off to the north and then to the east to link up with Bagration without significant problems. This northern column was essentially marching in a large arc away from Smolensk .

The second "southern" column, took the "inner arc". These troops, under command of Tutshkov I, took a route that was more "northeast" and turned at the wrong crossroads in the middle of the overnight march. This route brought them back into the vicinity of the pursuing French commands who were looking to restore contact with the retreating Russians. When Barclay recognized the mess, he promptly turned the column back to the correct route, but the wasted time was already gone, and the stolen night march was now a detriment due to the fatigue of the Russian troops.

The French cavalry and infantry units followed all roads out of Smolensk, and ran into the Russian rearguard formations on all of them. The road leading out of Smolensk to the north, headed to St. Petersburg, was guarded by the rearguard of the columns led by Korff III. General Grouchy's cavalry pushed up this road, but Korff III was able to fend them off. There are apparently 2 other tracts that lead northeast that either contained the Tutchkovs line of march or intersected with it. Down the more easterly track came the French pursuit led by part of Neys command and Nansouty's cavalry,which formed the French advanced guard. This mixed force ran into the previously misdirected Russian "southern" column (Tutchkov) outside of the village of Gorbunovo. Prince Eugene of Wurttemberg was immediately tasked with keeping Ney away from the intersection. At roughly the same time Ney also ran into a detachment of Russians on the newer Smolensk-Moscow road that was parallel to the Dneiper River. Ney chose to send his troops west after this second command which was headed to Moscow rather than push harder toward Gorbunovo to see what Russian forces were located there .

This decision created a race between the Russian columns traveling along the poor back road tracks traveling north of Valutino-Gora, and the French advance guard traveling on the Smolensk-Moscow "highway" south of Valutino-Gora also going west to east. The Russians were very aware of their dangerous predicament, the French were unknowing participants in a race that could cripple the Russian 1st Army of the West.

The Smolensk-Moscow road was a large well made road that was probably the best these armies would see in Russia. General Bagration had left a modest rear guard under Prince Gortshakov to act as his rearguard and link to the 1st Army of the West (Barclays command). Bagration had ordered this command to stay in position until the 1st Army "relieved" it. Prince Gortshakov had a command of 10 battalions from the 2nd Grenadier division and 8 squadrons of cavalry from the 7th Corps stationed astride this road that was to stay in place until the 1st Army's columns arrived. Additionally, Barclay realized that his line of march was within easy march of the French and so he also sent troops under the command of Tutchkov III to act as a blocking force at the base of the Valuntina-Gora. As instructed, Prince Gortshakov withdrew along the Moscow road when he became aware of the arrival of Tutchkovs blocking force at 8am. This adherance to orders had the unwelcome consequence of leaving only Karpovs cossaks located on the Pruditchevo heights behind to augment the 3200 men that had just arrived.
For the scenario that I wish to develop, this is where I will start the action.

On the board will be the Russian command of Tutchkov III.
Initial order of battle will be:
3rd Division III Corps
MG Tuchkov III
Revel IR (2 battalions)
20th Jagers (2 battalions)
21th Jagers (2 battalions)
Elisabethgrad Hussars (8 sqrds)
1 Horse battery

The French will enter with:

11th Infantry Division GbD Razout
Infantry Brigade: GdB Compere
Portugese 2nd Line (1 battalion)
Infantry Brigade: GdB Joubert
4th Ligne (4 battalions)
18th Ligne (4 battalions)
Intantry Brigade: GdB d’Henin
93rd Ligne (4 battalions)

7th Hussars

The question that is yet too be answered is, "When do the other units arrived and what was the real Russian OOB?"