Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Bridge at Petit Montagnac - September 25, 1745 - the battle fought

Friday saw the latest battle in the struggle between Gourmandie and Libagioni. Vidal and I welcomed Dan to the table and set about the game. Vidal once again assumed the mantle of Gourmandie command, this time in the form of le Comte de Boursin (in the absence of le Marquis de Fromage). Dan would command the Libagioni army of Il Prinicipe Martellato (with a little help from his KaiserReich allies).

The Bridge at Petit Montagnac - September 25, 1745

Following his loss at Lugio in August, Le Marquis de Fromage withdrew his battered force south to the Cabrera River, the border between Gourmandie and Libagioni. Expecting immediate pursuit, le Marquis left a small holding force at the three bridges in the village of Petit Montagnac, while he hurried to the capital to bring more troops to the frontier. Unbeknownst to him, his haste was unnecessary. Il Prinicipe Giuseppe Martellato, commander of the Libagioni army, had relied heavily on KaiserReich troops for his victory at Lugio. Following that action, representatives of KronPrinz Friedrich Wilhelm had arrived at Martellato’s field camp, demanding the return of the loaned troops. Many weeks went by as Il Principe negotiated terms with the KaiserReich ambassadors to maintain their troops with the Libagioni army. It was good fortune for Gourmandie, as most of the army was on the western frontier, carefully observing the political unrest in St Julien. The garrison at Petit Montagnac was thus lulled and forgotten for a time. No new orders had arrived from le Marquis and the garrison commander, Georges leRoque, Comte de Boursin, was determined to fulfil his orders to defend the river crossings.

Orders of Battle: link

As soon as the Gourmandie forces were laid out on the table, it became apparent that le Comte de Boursin would have some command challenges. The infantry brigade commanded by le Comte de Roquefort had units spread across the north edge of Petit Montagnac and the reserve battalion to the south of the village. The cavalry and artillery were under Boursin's direct command and suffered a similar dispersed deployment. Boursin was clearly not expecting the Libagioni attack. 

View form the north-west of Petit Montagnac. The River Cabrera bisects the field from south-west to north-east. The village and its bridges form a bottleneck for the attacking Libagioni forces attempting any crossing of the river (unfortunately, I forgot my tripod so most of the pictures are not of the best quality).

View from the south of the village, showing Roquefort's reserve battalion and the artillery guarding the central bridge.

The Libagioni advance guard cavalry quickly entered the field from the north-west, under Dan's command, and promptly moved against the isolated Gourmandie cavalry. These were chased off handily by the Grenadiers a Cheval Boursin (elite heavy cavalry vs run-of-the-mill dragoons wasn't really a fair fight anyway). Of course, a blunder on the part of the Libagioni cavalry commander didn't help....throwing shaken Libagioni dragoons forward at the Gourmandie heavies.

The Libagioni cavalry can be seen at the top of the photo, preparing to move against the Gourmandie heavy cavalry guarding the bridges. 

Boursin realized that this cavalry attack was just an advance guard and that his troops north of the river were too isolated and dispersed to mount an effective defence against any determined attack from the expected Libagioni main body. He determined at this point that the best manner in which to guard the crossings was to move south of the river and block the bridges. This would force the Libagioni forces into the bottleneck where the Gourmandie musketry and artillery could best show its effect. He began moving his infantry and cavalry back to the bridge, preparing to cross when Prinicipe Martellato's main Libagioni force began to arrive, in the form of a KaiserReich infantry brigade and the remainder of the cavalry.

The KaiserReich infantry deploys, grenadiers to the right. Boursin had managed to get his infantry on both flanks back across the river. One isolated heavy cavalry unit was caught, however (on the extreme left of the photo). 

Multiple command failures ensured the Gourmandie heavy cavalry on Bourisn's right flank would face a number of volleys from the advancing KaiserReich infantry. The cavalry was forced back to the river where it was eventually broken. 

It was at this point that a dust-stained and sweating rider appeared before le Comte de Boursin, with the following missive:

Sauvergny September 23, 1745

Monsieur le Comte,
Le Marquis has advised me to inform you of the latest intelligence emanating from Il Ducato di Libagioni. After le Marquis’ unfortunate reversal at Lugio in August, Prinicipe Martellato has not been idle. Reports have reached le Marquis that a number of KaiserReich contingents have marched to His Highness’ aid and now, in conjunction with His Highness’ own Libagioni legions, are marching south to the Cabrera. Le Marquis is even now marching to your assistance with the bulk of the Gourmandie army and has determined that you must delay the Libagioni army only insofar as it will not seriously jeopardize the integrity of your force at Petit Montagnac. If you determine that holding the crossings of the Cabrera is in any way inadvisable for the continued welfare of your command, you must, with all haste and alacrity, following the dictates of your judgement, withdraw south of the river toward Montagnac. If, however, you are in a position to conclude that the continued existence of your force north of the Cabrera is tenable, and indeed in the keeping of Le Marquis’ present desire that the enemy be rewarded in kind for their ignominious and unexpected victory at Lugio, you must, with the utmost earnest, remain with your force thus, and attempt to extract the maximum advantage of the situation. Otherwise, and with Le Marquis’ abundant approbation and approval, you have his permission to withdraw to the south bank of the river to continue your defence of the town.

With the greatest respect, I am your humble servant

Jean-Jacques Sommelier

Chief of Staff to His Lordship, Le Marquis de Fromage

This rather ambiguous letter caused some consternation for Boursin. Was he to hold the bridges or not? Luckily, he had not abandoned the defence and was still in a good position to fulfill his admittedly confusing orders.

Martellato proceeded to move the KaiserReich infantry to the bridges to face the defending Roquefort battalions. Fire-fights ensued over both outer bridges, Martellato hoping to weaken the defenders before sending in his fearsome Libagioni infantry which had arrived and moved up behind their KaiserReich allies. Libagioni infantry have the bloodthirsty and terrifying charge characteristics but lack any fire discipline and thus do not  get the first fire bonus. This made them ideal for the attack that Martellato was carefully setting up. Unfortunately, a wrench was thrown into this seemingly well executed plan (as seems always to happen at this point). The KaiserReich grenadiers on the right flank inexplicably got the worst of the fire-fight and failed a Break Test. The following Libagioni infantry were left to face a relatively unscathed Roquefort battalion, backed up by the Gourmandie artillery at the centre bridge.

Gourmandie artillery at the centre bridge.

To make matters worse for Martellato, the sun was now quickly falling and evening was approaching. His right flank units frantically searched for a ford by which to flank the Gourmandie defenders, to no avail. As the sun finally dipped below the horizon, a final charge by Libagioni infantry on the left flank finally succeeded in gaining a foothold on the south bank. Night had fallen and Il Prinicipe had fulfilled his objective, although only barely ("If Martellato with his Libagioni forces has command of and access by at least one bridge from one side of the river to the other, such that reinforcements may cross to the south bank by night, regardless of the state of the other bridges, then he has won the game, achieving his objective.")

Having gained a foothold on the south bank, Martellato can mass his army overnight in Gourmandie territory. But to what purpose?

Thanks again to Vidal for hosting and to Dan for taking on the Libagioni command. A fun game all 'round!

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