Monday, October 5, 2009

1813 Campaign: Battle of Aschersleben

It's been a while since my last post (life just seems to keep getting in the way). In the meanwhile, we've fought two battles from the campaign. In Turn 7 there was another battle between Le Grande Armee (sud) and von Bulow's II Prussian Corps. This followed on the heels of the Prussian loss at Bayreuth in Turn 6 (see here for a synopsis of the Battle of Bayreuth) whereupon von Bulow retreated his battered corps to the fortified town of Zwickau. The commander of the Army of Bohemia had ordered some serious fortifications to be built at Zwickau and as Bertrand, commanding 4e Corps d'Armee, moved to the environs of the town, he realized the proportions of the task before him. Facing him was von Bulow's Prussian corps (battered, yes...ineffective? hardly) and a sizeable garrison firmly entrenched behind 60" of earthworks (the maximum possible for any town/city in the campaign). The Army of Bohemia had indeed been busy! The tabletop game was duly set up and 2e Corps proceeded to dance around the Prussian entrenchments, attempting to find a weakness. Unfortunately, darkness descended and decided the battle as a draw. The French had fulfilled their orders from the Emperor by continuing to press von Bulow without inviting serious damage or casualties. Because the game was really just a matter of the French dancing around the outside of the Prussian defences, I'm not going to chronicle it here any further beyond offering the pictures below.

1) The Hesse-Darmstadt division (with Fronk Rank grenadiers in the foreground) probing the Prussian defences; 2) Part of the Allied garrison behind their earthworks; 3) The Allied garrison in Zwickau.

On to Turn 8, and some more serious movements and developments. The Army of the North has forced the retreat of Le Grande Armee (nord) back across the River Saale to Weimar. Bennigsen followed up this retrograde movement, gaining a solid brideghead on the western bank of the Saale in the process. There is defintely a battle pending here! (Weimar is just east of Erfurt and west of Naumburg)

Enlarge the map to see battle sites in the campaign to this point.

Meanwhile, to the north at Aschersleben, General-Leutnant Osten-Sacken has finally converged his Russian forces in the vicinity of Ascherseleben and is ready to attack the French forces there. It is at Ascheresleben where the first battle of Turn 8 occurrred. Osten-Sacken had been able to amass an impressive force near Ascherlesleben while the local French commander was scrambling to find enough troops to counter this dangerous Russian thrust across the river.

Army of the North
CinC: GL Osten-Sacken

IX Corps (GL Olsufiev)
  • 1st Division (infantry)
  • 2nd Division (infantry)

XI Corps (GL Osten-Sacken)
  • 1st Division (infantry)
  • 2nd Division (infantry)

I Cavalry Corps (GL Korff)
  • 1st Division (dragoons)
  • 2nd Division (light cavalry)
Le Grande Armee (nord)
CinC: GD "Bill" (long story, see below)
  • 10e Division (2e Corps)
  • Division de Cavalerie (2e Corps)
  • Division Lefol
  • Aschersleben Garrison
I should probabaly elaborate on the OBs at this point. The Russian order of battle is quite straightforward (as it usually is). Because Bennigsen is somewhere to the south, GL Osten-Sacken, as senior officer present, had assumed command of this wing of the army. The French OB is somewhat more haphazard. There were two elements of 2e Corps d'Armee present: 10e Division and the corps light cavalry division. Unfortunately, the Corps commander, General de Division Lauriston, was nowhere to be found. Equally unfortunate, the cavalry division of 2e Corps, although listed in the OB, was foraging in the area of Aschersleben when the Russians attacked and thus did not take part in the battle. Also in the area was a Division de Marche, commanded by GD Lefol. This formation had recently arrived at the front and was comprised of reinforcments destined for various formations in the army. The division's component marche formations had not yet been dispersed throughout the army. All of this was commanded by the (un-named) commander of 10e Division. He was dubbed "Bill" for lack of a "campaign" name (no need to ask why, even though there was nobody named Bill playing in the game). In lieu of specific orders, General "Bill" decided that his best option was to hold Achersleben as long as possible and extricate his force with the least amount of damage possible.

Battle of Aschersleben, Opening Phase.

Russian infantry of 15th Division, IX Corps moves forward to the attack.
(Old Glory figures from the collection of Steve Thomson)

The Russian commander received a "Flank Attack" card in his draws from the Battle Deck (see campaign rules here) and decided to exercise this option by placing I Cavalry Corps and IX Corps on the right flank. The French commander realized the overwhelming odds against him and chose to deploy around the few buildings in the outskirts of Ascheresleben. Immediately the battle began, the Russian cavalry on the right flank jumped forward to pin the French infantry until their Russian counterparts could move forward and engage. The French had deployed on the rear slopes of the long ridge, making the dangerous Russian artillery for the most part impotent (in fact, the Russian artillery on the right flank would not fire a single round in the entire battle). On the Russian left flank, XI Corps moved forward to pin the French right wing in place.

Battle of Aschersleben, Second Phase.

9th (infantry) Division, IX Corps and the dragoon division of I Cavalry Corps rush forward to engage the French-held ridgeline.
(Front Rank and Old Glory figures from the collection of Steve Thomson)

As the rest of the Russian army pinned the French garrison in the outskirts of Aschersleben and the French 10e Division along the ridgeline, the dragoon division rushed forward and quickly engaged the French infantry behind the ridge. Without cavalry support (and the divisional artillery pinned by the flanking Russian cavalry), the French infantry was quickly overrun. The mass of IX Corps and I Cavalry Corps then turned to face the town where XI Corps was hotly engaged with its garrison.

Battle of Aschersleben, Final Phase.

The Russian dragoons division of I Cavalry Corps after clearing the ridgeline of enemy infantry and looking for new targets.
(Front Rank figures from the collection of Steve Thomson)

Having done away with the French infantry on the right flank, the mass of the Russian army turned to face Aschersleben. Here, XI Corps had suffered a bloody nose at the hands of a determined and skillful French garrison. Unfortunately, the valiant defence of the town was in vain as the French commander ("Bill") decided that, having lost an entire infantry division on his left flank, it would be prudent to remove what was left of his force from the field.

The Army of the North achieved a Decisive Victory at Aschersleben and the Russians gain 6 National Will Points. More significantly, the Allies now have substantial forces across the river at two points and are poised to spread mayhem and chaos! The French lose 36 National Will Points for the loss and all the engaged divisions receive a "downgrade 2 units" modifier for the loss and a further "downgrade 2 units" modifier for the pursuit (the Russian cavalry outnumbered their French opponents 7:2).

We have one more battle to adjudicate in Turn 8, this time at Pilsen in the south. The Emperor has amassed his attack force (including the Imperial Guard) and Schwarzenberg has entrenched his army thoroughly. This battle will see 8 divisions v. 8 divisions and will be played on a 6' a 16' table!

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