Battle of Bautzen 1813

From the start this campaign battle was a weird game to set up and play. Andrew had found a "wood-cut" type printed contemporary map that displayed all the deployment for both armies. Most of the map appeared to be covered in steep hills from the shading and I could not get this to relate to the modern satellite view from the Google maps no mater how I tried to scale it. I came to the conclusion that the steepness of the hill was in the imagination of the cartographer and had little bearing on the actual landscape as it would have been nigh on impossible to cram so many troops onto the side of such steep hills.

Our game was to be a reversal of the historical battle in any case, as the French were occupying the town with the allies attacking from the east and northeast along two roads that converged into a Y junction just a short distance outside the old town, which included an old fortification, covering the river crossings from the West. I came to the conclusion, after some discussion with Andrew that we were looking at a town that was in a floodplain valley, surrounded by low hills, giving a narrow strip of reasonably flat open ground as you approached from the east. Had we got a larger table we would have included the foot hills that were undoubtedly shown as the mountains on the original map. However, it looked like we were stuck with one of our most open fighting areas to date, perfect for Andrew's mad cavalry charges.

I had tried to create the maximum space on the cramped table with Bautzen at the far left and the Y forked road approaching from the centre, but it did not look right. I then tried to twist it round through about 45 degrees but this looked out of place too as it made the northern most approach road too close. I settled for a rather poor centralised positioning, but this did not meet Andrew's concept of how the table should be laid out so we twisted the field through about 35 degrees and moved Bautzen further back. Still did not look right, but had to be an acceptable compromise or we would not get a game. So we had a neat little trap for the French if the allies prevailed, as the river ran along the northern flank and did a sharp U turn around the town, where the bridges were, before continuing southwards. South of the town battlefield area were the hills.

The situation was that the Imperial Guard were drawn up ready to defend the town, clearly visible from the hills so that Andrew could approach them in whatever order he chose without any nasty surprises. There was nowhere to hide. However, to Andrew's disgust Napoleon had deployed covering the crossroads well forward of the town and had cavalry units ready to meet the advancing allies. I considered this a crucial move as it would have been suicidal to just sit back in the town and give the enemy a free hand at deploying, especially when the one French army, albeit the Guards, were facing a Prussian and lunatic fanatical Russian combination. I intended to trade ground for time as VI corps was hurrying from the Northwest to join the Guard and then the numbers would be more equal.

Well I had some winging about that, especially when I moved up two small cavalry forces and smashed into his advanced cavalry units driving them back for little loss. Apparently it was very unsporting conduct and not how one fights a war, being very sneaky!!! It was so upsetting Andrew talked of retreating before he had even advanced to contact and I relented against my better judgment and retired my cavalry to give him time to bring his massed units into play. I would regret this latter, as I had expected he had what seemed to be and endless supply of fresh cavalry units whereas my numbers were very restricted until VI corps arrived and even then I still expect to have less horse. Something in the region of 3:1 before VI corps and 2:1 against French when they turn up.

The opening phase of the battle saw the French right flank engage the Russians' cavalry in a series of charge and counter charge as Andrew marched on his infantry and cannons. My artillery were well forward and were soon able to engage the mobs of Cossacks that threatened to swarm towards my infantry line. I had drawn the guards up in columns of attack and close enough to join together when threatened by a cavalry charge. This would mean they could combine the firepower of a line without giving up the protection of the formation depth. Another advantage was that being guard class troops and therefore better trained they gained a shooting bonus.

Well my cavalry did rather well at stopping and upsetting his advance on both flanks, although on the left the Prussian lights swamped the French super heavies mainly due to my own cock up with the rules making them fight at fewer numbers that they should. Nevertheless, the dice where with the Prussians and they wiped out all the French horse of the left of Bautzen. This was offset somewhat by my artillery getting the better of whatever ventured in range until Andrew managed to get his artillery deployed for the main shoot out, gun for gun. It looked to me like he had an awful lot of cannon compared to the French and this was later confirmed as he had forgot to reduce the number allocated to each corps down from 16 to 12, so he had 32 guns facing 12 guard artillery pieces although I had another 12 to march on and the sooner the better.

The French cavalry were slowly getting swamped by numbers on the right flank and I had started falling back towards the fortress on the left flank as the Prussians tried to advance their 9 pounder guns close enough to smash the guards columns. This was a good advantage to the Frogs as all their guns were 12 pounders and had a better range of fire. However it did mean, rather irritatingly that one Prussian battery firing on my main battery could only hit the far left detachment and as they scored the most hits they wore the position down so much they were forced to retreat. Only the fact they were guards saved them from a complete rout.

Meanwhile, the Russian dragoons advanced to close to the guard skirmish line and suffered badly. A few more horsemen less to worry about. The artillery duel was going rather well considering the weight of fire against the French and they managed to drive off three batteries and blow up three guns. Even Andrew managed to destroy a howitzer with the Prussian 9 pounders. The Prussians were red hot, fortunately the Russians were not pressing as hard, although they did try a charge on a guard column only to have them turn about and evade. Guard class troops get a move bonus as well making them tricky blighters to catch and beat.

In the centre Andrew was sneaking forward some Prussian Jaegers to try and snipe at my gun batteries so I used Napoleon's own body guard heavy cavalry to drive them off and then as Andrew had sent forward yet another cavalry unit, off into a charge to try and drive them off. It went rather well with my 5 man strong unit beating the Prussian 9 man line and causing them to rout. I then got uncontrolled pursuit and hacked another 3 to death before rallying on the spot. Now I was surrounded by lovely targets; guns, infantry columns, skirmishers etc but had little chance of doing any serious damage with just 4.1/2 men (one got hit).

I decided the best chance of throwing a spanner in the works, not being close enough to hit the guns before they turned to face and load canister, was to go for the Prussian infantry. Still a tough call as it required a roll of 15 with 3 d6, but I did get +2 for being guards. Don't you just love the guards? It's like all the privileges of first class air travel converted into fighting bonuses. Sadly I failed to get even close with a miserable 9 +2 total, but I did manage to escape back to the main line in one piece and there were another lot of cavalry cleared out of the fight.

Towards the end of our third loft day of fighting Andrew had closed up with cavalry and guns on my left flank and got off a weak hit on the guard column killing 3 figures, just enough to make them angry. He then charged the extreme left flank which I now had a combined two unit guards column ready for him. He rolled 18 to charge, would have been deadly for breakthrough, killing hundreds again, but then received 50% casualties and was routed off back to his base line.

So far so good. True I had lost most of my cavalry, but the first of VI corps were arriving on table and I had even managed to beat off more Russian horse with the battered survivors of my cavalry although the Danish lancers refused to advance, they were beat. I was down to seven guns still firing, but the bulk of the guard infantry were still intact and happy as Larry. Now for the tricky part to fall back safely while the new corps advances into play for the counter attack.

The superior guard artillery skills countered the weight of numbers of the allied guns, that and the fact the Prussians were only 9 pounders and had a slightly shorter range. It would be just a little longer before the first of the Bavarian artillery arrived to swing the balance.

Andrew was showing no commitment to closing and my guess was that it was to be another hit and run game designed largely to damage the imperial guard as much as possible. The results then from Andrews point of view were not too bad. Although he had only scratched the surface of the guard infantry, he had clobbered the guns and horse for six. Time after time his lighter cavalry seemed to get the better of the heavier French horse. Not a bad thing I suppose as historically the French horses were pretty naff after the 1812 Moscow disaster.

Anyway, the first of the reinforcements had occupied the fortress to secure the left of the line and two lots of artillery were deployed. On my right the Bavarian heavy dragoons had beaten off yet more Russian cavalry and were surprisingly still in a position to charge for more of the same. Then came a tremendous round of shooting from the Russian gunners blowing up yet another howitzer and killing 2 more desperately needed crew. Despite the appalling losses, they were only forced into retreat and rallied on the next turn. I can see why Andrew thinks the guards are a tough nut to crack.

I had advanced the Young Guard skirmish line to have a crack at his Russian artillery which I suspected would soon be retiring from the game now a fresh Bavarian battery had come up to support the battered guards. I was right and while I could not catch them I did clobber some Cossacks and had the better of some Russian skirmishers covering an advancing line regiment.

Behind the skirmish line I was pushing forward the guard infantry to try and close with the Russian battle line before it all melted away. Andrew had deployed three weak squadrons of Tin Chests ready to charge into the guard and I was ready to oppose these with my own heavy cavalry. They were a hard target and I missed most of them with the cannons, but expected to get the better of them by weight of numbers if it came to the charge.

The main action and excitement of the afternoons gaming was on the Left of the French line when Andrew pointed out a serious mistake I had made, thinking I could deploy my heavy cannons in one turn and fire the next. This meant that he had a strong force of Prussian cavalry that would be able to run them down before they were loaded. Well I couldn't let that happen without a fight and so went about making the best of a bad job.

Firstly I advance a fresh unit of French skirmishers to the flank of the nearest cavalry and let them have it, killing three out of four and driving one squadron away. He had also got close enough to the fortress for some of the garrison to shoot at his cavalry and took yet more casualties. I now had a choice of loading the artillery or running. I gambled on being able to hold his charge with my light cavalry.

I won the first round of contact on the far left and had already driven off his reinforcements and despite loosing the second and third round of melee redeemed myself with some spectacular dice rolling on the right of the line with two consecutive rolls of 6 x 6's out of ten dice chopping his main Prussian cavalry to pieces. More by luck than judgement I had saved the guns and the left flank. Understandably Andrew was not too pleased at my stuffiness and already I could see the backs of the Prussians as they were marching off table. That just left the Russians; they had further to go and Andrew was readying his horse for one more charge.

There were a few more feeble cavalry charges covering the big withdrawal and the widening ranges forced me to limber and advance some of the guard cannon. Andrew promptly tried to force a charge on my limbered battery but, failed to make a move due to some sneaky skirmisher fire and a few well placed rounds of shot from the remaining gunners.

Although I had a slight advantage with the fresher cavalry, neither side were keen on charging again due to the casualty percentages forcing the 'go' level to 15+ on three d6, not an easy option and I even felt safe enough to push forward the skirmish line again and start popping at some strange looking Russian skirmish companies and stationary cavalry.

By now Andrew had got the majority of the Prussian army off table just leaving yet more cavalry keen for one last charge at the Guard infantry. I had already destroyed a heavy dragoon charge against a three regiment strong column of guard infantry, killing all but, one figure in a close range volley. You'd think he'd learn, but I rather suspect he is hoping to draw forward my last few cavalry in a head on bash. Much better to keep these for the pursuit.

Even more strange events on the far right with the majority of the Russians heading for the hills like gold had been discovered, one brave brigade of four regiments were deployed in line ready to die under the combined musketry and cannon fire of the Imperial Guard. No doubt this will cause a few moans as they are sacrificed to safe the corps. Of course it all relies on the dice rolls and stranger things have happened than Russian line giving guards a bad mashing. We shall have to see.

The final fling was pretty much predictable. On the left the Prussians had extracted their army in more or less one piece with the exception of the cavalry and artillery that had been the only real opposition on this front. There was one last round of weak cavalry charges with one battered Prussian refusing to take any further part and once again the Guard and Bavarians got the better of the Prussians driving them off with heavy casualties, closely pursued by the four regiments of guard and three from the Bavarian corps. They should catch them in the foot hills overlooking the town should they dare stand and fight, but that would be another battle.

On the far right the Imperial guard deployed to engage the Russian rear guard. As expected the Russians proved incredibly stubborn and did some considerable damage to the Dutch Guard who advanced too far forward in order to leave clear line of sight for the artillery. The combination of artillery and guard volleys quickly wore the Russians down reducing one regiment to two figures (40 men) out of 36 starting strength. Pleased to record in true Russian style, with Andrew's magnificent morale throw of 18, they stood until all cut down by canister fire.

Andrew had brought his last cuirassiers forward to threaten the skirmishers and yet another guard unit pushing forward to try and cut the Russians line of retreat. Fortunately they failed to charge and were eventually forced back and off the field by Napoleon's bodyguard cavalry, now reduced to 2.3/4 figures. They then encircled the last remnants of the rearguard, along with the Bavarian heavy dragoons on the far right. Slim pickings by now as the last unit was already in rout and the other three had been cut down, one by a brilliant charge from the Westphalian cuirassiers that caught them trying to form square.

That was pretty much it. The Russians were on the road back to Gorlitz and half the Imperial guard and the fresh corps were hot on the heals of the retreating Prussians. The guard had stood well against the superior numbers, but suffered heavy cavalry and artillery losses. For this they had split the allies straight down the middle, virtually destroying the Russians and damaging the Prussian horse and artillery into the bargain. Andrew felt he had not got the result he wanted, with the majority of the guard infantry suffering only minor casualties, but then again he had seriously weakened their cavalry and artillery, which I think might make a big difference in the next battle.

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