Friday, September 11, 2009

1813 Campaign: Battle of Bayreuth

I've been somewhat busy at work lately and I haven't been able to update the blog or, especially, our Napoleonic campaign (damned career keeps getting in the way of my hobby....must realign the priorities!).

Turn 6 in the campaign has come and gone and another battle was fought, this time between elements of the Army of Bohemia and le Grande Armee (sud). Napoleon had pushed his 4e Corps d'Armee into the mountains in northern Bavaria to, it seems, secure the northern flank of his push into Bohemia and Prague. General de Division Bertrand, commander of 4e Corps, had followed the Emperor's orders and was confronted at Bayreuth by an advancing enemy force made up of the entirety of II Prussian Corps, commanded by General-Leutnant von Bulow. This Prussian move had been ordered by Prince Schwarzenberg in order to discover any French presence near Bayreuth (seems they found it!).

The campaign map: Bayreuth is on the eastern end of the map, north-west of Prague.

Not only did Bulow find an enemy presence but immediately resolved to attack the French as they moved on Bayreuth. Bertrand's cavalry patrols, more numerous than the Prussians, discovered von Bulow's movements and Bertrand was able to maneuver his divisions to effect a flanking movement on the unsuspecting Prussians. As the game began, the Prussians were on the defensive in response to Bertrand's flank surprise.

French Army
CinC: General de Division Bertrand

4e Corps d'Armee (Bertand)
  • 31e Division (Berg)
  • 35e Division (Berg)
  • 39e Division (Hesse-Darmstadt)
  • Cavalerie Division (Berg/Hesse-Darmstadt)
Part of the cavalry division of 4e Corps: Berg and Hesse-Darmstadt light cavalry). Front Rank figures from the collection of Andy Lunny, painted by Steve Thompson.

Allied Army
CinC: General-Leutnant von Bulow

II Prussian Corps (von Bulow)
  • 1st Brigade (infantry)
  • 2nd Brigade (infantry)
  • 3rd Brigade (cavalry)
Bayreuth Garrison (1 Garrison Point)

The Prussian commander decided to deploy with his right flank anchored on the dominating hill and town, occupied by the resident garrison troops. The French deployed to face the town and their flanking forces, one division of infantry and the light cavalry division, moved to hit the Prussian right flank. The French deployment seemed, at first, to be a little disjointed with such a large gap between the two wings of the corps. But the first French moves showed that the initial deployment before the hill and town was only a ruse to pin the Prussian left flank. Bertrand immediately began moving the two infantry divisions facing the town laterally towards the flanking force.

As the French were making their lateral movement, the Prussian commander saw an opportunity and began moving his cavalry and left-most infantry division forward to try and interdict the French move. Initially, this movement proved successful. Bertrand's infantry divisions moving across the front of the town and hill were pinned by the rapid Prussian cavalry movement. The future looked bleak for the French infantry, especially the right-most division. At this moment, the Prussian cavalry commander was felled and the impetus of the attack stalled. This proved to be the pivotal moment of the battle. The French were able to recover and continue the movement to link up with their flanking comrades. Meanwhile, part of the French cavalry division on the flank moved to the north of the hill to attempt to counter the Prussian cavalry. They arrived just as the Prussian commander went down and were able to push back the confused Prussian cavalry.

Once the impetus had left the Prussian attack, the French were bale to quickly recover and continue their attack. The combined arms of the French made the Prussian response static (the Prussian cavalry had been made practically useless with the loss of their commander and the interdiction of the French light cavalry). Von Bulow saw the writing on the wall and resolved to pull his already battered corps from the field. Unfortunately, his force was becoming more and more confused and the orders did not reach all. Most units, to their honour, stood resolutely in the face of increasing French pressure. Eventually, the Prussians fled from field, but not after causing some heavy casualties on the French as well.

The German cavalry of 4e Corps again, with accompanying horse artillery.

Tactically, the Prussian player played the game well, daring to move out against the initial French lateral movement in front of the town and hill. If his cavalry commander had not been killed at the most important point of the attack, the game would have been markedly different. But these are the moments upon which the fates of nations ride!

In campaign terms, the Prussians suffered a Decisive Loss and lost 35 National Will Points and French gained six NWPs. This is not the worst result (that being a Crushing Loss), mainly because the Prussians were able to inflict a fair number of casualties on the French to mitigate the final result somewhat. Perhaps the worst part of the loss for the Prussians is that five units were destroyed and removed from II Prussian Corps order of battle. There is a mechanism for their replacement but it is dependant upon a number of factors and is definitely not a reliable source of reinforcement. For the time-being, II Prussian Corps is severely mauled and has received some heavy negative modifiers (it also suffered from the pursuit, since its cavalry contingent had been knocked about severely).

You can see the entire battle report and OBs (and the campaign rules) here.

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