Monday, August 31, 2009

1813 Campaign: Battle of Gera

We played our second campaign battle on the weekend at MIGS. We've reached Turn 5 of the campaign and the armies are starting to come into more significant contact. The northern wing of le Grande Armee has been trying to consolidate while attempting to locate the main enemy forces. On this turn, Ney did find some of the Army of the North but it seems he bit off a little more than he could proverbially chew. Ney had pushed two divisions across the Saale River from Jena to Gera. This was indeed a bold move considering he had no cavalry accompaniment! And the two infantry divisions were from different corps. Luckily, one of the two corps commanders was present along with Ney in person. Check the map below for the location of Gera. It's to the middle right just south of Leipzig. I can't show the troop dispositions since the campaign players read this blog as well. It's enough to point out that the French lines run roughly along the line of the Saale and the Allied armies are arrayed to the east of the same river.

When Ney arrived in Gera at the head of his two divisions he found an entire Austrian ArmeeKorps waiting for him. The French player decided nonetheless to initiate an attack and so was fought the Battle of Gera!

Grande Armee du nord

CinC: Marechal Ney

11e Corps d'Armee: Marechal MacDonald
  • 17e Division (Wurttemberg infantry)
2e Corps d'Armee: no commander present
  • 16e Division (infantry)

Army of the North

IV ArmeeKorps: FZM Gyulai
  • Advance Guard Division (cavalry/infantry)
  • 1st Division (infantry)
  • 2nd Division (infantry)
Besides a slight advantage in numbers, the Austrians also had cavalry in the Advance Guard Division. This difference from the French force was to prove critical even though the French enjoyed more artillery.The opening phase of the Battle of Gera. The field is split into two by a stream. Otherwise there are no major terrain features. The Austrian commander chose the baseline and deployed his Korps with the Advance Guard Division and its component cavalry on the right. The French began their advance on the right flank (they were the attackers after all). 16e Division had two artillery batteries and its commander was attempting to bring them close to the Austrian lines to use their weight in the attack. Unfortunately, a single Austrian battery was crewed so brilliantly (i.e. fantastic dice rolls) that 16e Division's advance was slowed to a crawl. On the Austrian right flank, the Advance Guard Division began its move to outflank the Wurttembergers. The German troops quickly formed square to hold the Austrian cavalry at bay and were initially successful. Unfortunately, once the infantry of the Austrian 2nd Division moved forward, the French commander had nothing with which to combat the combined arms attack of the Austrians.
The Austrian Advance Guard, working in concert with the 2nd Division, were able to work around the flank and rear of the Wurttemberg division and rout it (but not until after a fanatical defense by the German troops). The losses on this flank coupled with the stalwart defense of the Austrian left (i.e. that artillery battery continued to perform well!) persuaded the French army of the futility of the situation.

I say that the French army made the decision to leave since Ney had long since been knocked off his horse by a stray shot! Marechal MacDonald was also slightly wounded in this bloody battle. No fewer than four Austrian division commanders were hit! "How can that be?" you say when there were only three divisions present. The commander of the 2nd Division was killed early on as were two of his replacements!

In campaign terms, this was a decisive Allied victory and the Austrians gain 6 National Will Points for their efforts. More significantly though, the French army loses 36 National Will Points and the Wurttemberg contingent loses 9 of its own. The minor German states serving with the French army all have their own NWP totals which are substantially smaller than the French. They can be knocked out of the campaign if their NWP totals reach zero (i.e. they are removed from the order of battle). If this happens and the Allies capture the capital city of the same contingent, they change sides and are added to the Allied order of battle (but at a lower class rating). In this battle, the Wurttembergers lost almost half of their National Will Point total.

Ney and MacDonald are also out for an indeterminate amount of time. Napoleon is faced with the decision of replacing Ney with another Marshal. In the meantime one of the Emperor's ADCs, General de Division Mouton, who happened to be at Ney's headquarters, has taken temporary command of the army wing. On the Austrian side, Feldzeugmeister Gyulai, commander of IV ArmeeKorps is also out of the campaign for some time nursing his wounds. He's been replaced by one of his division commanders. Not quite the same as losing an army wing commander!

For complete campaign rules and battle summaries, see here.

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