Saturday, October 24, 2009

1813 Campaign: Battle of Pilsen

Friday night at MIGS we played another campaign battle in our 1813 campaign, involving Le Grande Armee (sud) and the Army of Bohemia. Napoleon (Michael) had made an aggressive move across the Danube at Ratisbon, challenging Prince Schwarzenberg (Alex) to come out and fight. Rather than face the Emperor close to the river, Schwarzenberg had opted to fall back on the heavily fortified supply depot at Pilsen. Napoleon quickly followed up and attacked with the forces at hand. You can see the strategic map below. Pilsen is near the bottom right of the map. To give a general outlook on the strategic dispositions, the French armies cover the line of the River Saale in the north (although the Russians have breached this line near Aschersleben and Weimar) and have pushed on from the Danube near Ratisbon in the south toward Pilsen.

1813 Campaign: Strategic Map with battle locations.

Battle of Pilsen

Le Grande Armee (sud)
CinC: Emperor Napoleon

Garde Imperiale (Napoleon)
  • 1er Division (infantry)
  • 2e Division (infantry)
  • 3e Division (cavalry)
  • Artillerie
3e Corps D'Armee (GD Souham)
  • 11e Division (infantry)
  • 8e Division (infantry)
1er Corps de Cavalerie (GD Latour-Maubourg)
  • 1er Division (heavy cavalry)
  • 2e Division (heavy cavalry)

Infantry of 3e Corps d'Armee and dragoons of 1er Corps de Cavalerie.

Army of Bohemia
CinC: Prince Schwarzenberg

I ReserveKorps (GdK Hessen-Homburg)
  • 1st Division (grenadiers)
  • 2nd Division (hevay cavalry)
I ArmeeKorps (GdK Merveldt)
  • Light Division (infnstry/cavalry)
  • 1st Division (infantry)
  • 2nd Division (infantry)
IV (Russian) Cavalry Corps (GL Vasilchikov)
  • 1st Division (light cavalry)
  • 2nd Division (light cavalry)

Not only did the Austrian army enjoy numerical superiority, it was also ensconced behind a veritable cornucopia of earthworks. But all was not rosy and good for Schwarzenberg. More than half of his infantry was raw class and for the battle he was himself a d8 commander (the lowest of the low) and was using a poor card deck (next to the worst). Facing him was Napoleon on a great day (a d12+1 commander) using an excellent deck (the very best). Note: all rule references are to Field of Battle.

Battle of Pilsen: Opening Phase. The French launch their attack on Pilsen and the Austrians begin to move their massive left wing forward.

Napoleon was able to inspect the defences of Pilsen carefully and observe Schwarzenberg's dispositions. The Emperor chose to confine his deployment to a narrow frontage to maximize his assault potential (besides, he didn't have enough troops to cover the entire Austrian deployment). The river bisecting the table was a tremendous help as the Emperor based his right flank upon it and left the rest of the battlefield to the Austrians with the exception of one unit: 2e Division/1er Corps de Cavalerie was seriously understrength so it was sent on a wide sweeping movement toward the Austrian left flank. This was intended as no more than a demonstration designed to divert as many enemy troops as possible. In the event, it proved to be more than successful.
Battle of Pilsen: Second Phase. The French cavalry move to the Austrian left flank to begin wreaking havoc. The Pilsen garrison comes out to confront the French attack and the French guard artillery moves to the river line.

The French began the battle by moving on the outskirts of Pilsen near their left flank. The outlying buildings of the city and their attendant earthworks were manned primarily by the raw class infantry and artillery of the Austrian garrison. The French attack was slow and tentative at first but began to cause damage as the garrison and a neighbouring Austrian line division moved out to confront the attackers. This movement out of the fortified area was partly explained by the need to relieve some serious over-crowding. In the outskirts of the city, inside the earthworks, were deployed five batteries of artillery and 12 battalions of infantry (all within approx. 24" x 18").

On the Austrian left flank, a mass of cavalry and supporting infantry began to move forward with what looked like the intention of turning the French right flank. The Austrian defensive stance had quickly shown itself as only a springboard for an attack on the outnumbered French. Unfortunately, the quality of the Austrian commander and the card deck would make this a risky venture. Poor quality commanders with inefficient decks are best confined to simple, uncomplicated plans and large sweeping attacks using multiple component commands does not fall into this caetgory! The French, on the other hand, had a great commander with the a very efficient deck. This allowed Napoleon to send the single cavalry command out on its flanking move without any serious worry.

The Emperor had originally thought to deploy his guard artillery reserve against Pilsen and its earthworks but upon seeing this mass of horseflesh across the river he diverted the guns and had them deploy along the river. They smartly changed direction and soon began wreaking destruction among the tight-packed ranks of cavalry and infantry.

Imperial Guard artillery reserve deployed along the river's edge.

Meanwhile, the French cavalry sent out on its lonely flanking movement was making its presence felt. It was able to quickly move to the Austrian left flank (excellent deck v. poor deck began to make a difference here) and seriously damage the enemy infantry there. It was even able to get in amongst the mass of Austrian cavalry and cause more damage before it was itself overwhelmed by numbers. A small cavalry contingent had seriously slowed an enemy force many times its size. Although it was lost, it had served a valuable purpose. While it was annoying the Austrian attack force, the guard artillery reserve had unlimbered along the riverbank to unleash its own hell.

Battle of Pilsen: Third Phase. The Imperial Guard is unleashed upon the garrison of Pilsen.

In Pilsen, the French attack had begun to show results and it was at this moment, knowing that his right flank was secure, the Emperor moved forward Les Grognards of the Old Guard infantry and cavalry. The Old Guard Grenadiers and the cavalry division of the guard moved smartly across the field and flung themselves upon the hapless garrison of Pilsen. The raw garrison troops put up a stout but ultimately futile resistance. The guard was soon in possession of the town and it was clear to Schwarzenberg that his position was untenable. His army seemed to agree and when the next Army Morale card appeared, it promptly said adieu to the French and hustled away.

Old Guard infantry await the order to assault Pilsen.

The river that had shielded Napoelon's flank now worked to hamper severely any pursuit of the Austrian army. Of course, the masses of Austrian and Russian cavalry that had done little in the battle were available to cover any pursuit the French may have been able to mount. The battle ended in a decisive victory for the French who gained six National Will Points. That was dwarfed, however, by the 52 National Will Point lost by the Austrians (Pilsen had also been a supply depot for the Army of Bohemia). I ArmeeKorps suffered four destroyed units that are removed from the campaign order of battle. As well, the Allied force in the battle receives some serious negative modifiers for any future battle.

On then to Turn 9 and Napoleon's pursuit of the seriously crippled Austrian army. More to come!

No comments:

Post a Comment