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?"

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this information and your thoughts on a scenario for Valutino. It's tricky to find all of the detail necessary to produce a scenario for some of the 'lesser' actions of the Napoleonic wars isn't it? The 1812 campaign is especially tricky as the organisation and strength of the formations were so 'fluid'. When you add to that the reporting of events for the propaganda purposes, both at the time and since, confusion reigns! Have you tried Esposito and Elting's "Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars"? I don't have a copy, but it may have some clues.

    Valutino is one of many battles from the 1812 campaign that we did not get to do in the bicentennial last year (our game of Borodino took precedence) so I'll follow with interest your development of this scenario! James