The secret diary of Hercule Horse - Grieto 1813

Read this very carefully - I shall write it only once.

Life was not so bad for a horse who had escaped the Russian winter of 1812, but I was not too pleased to be told we were marching East again in 1813, but the little corporal says go and so we go.

All was pleasant enough, a gentle ride scouting along the wooded roads ever eastwards, stealing oats from any farms we passed, I ate well. That was until we approached a festering hovel called Greito. Here we encountered Prussian scouts and pretty soon it was a race to take and hold the village.

I would not have minded, there was perhaps a nice warm stable for me, but unfortunately there were also hundreds of Russians that thought it would be a nice place to visit.

The first day was a scrappy day, we light cavalry charged superior numbers of Prussian and Russian cavalry and bought time for our infantry and guns to form a line across the clearing where the road ran almost due north to south. The enemy quickly deployed their artillery in a long continuous line cresting a low ridge that ran at 45 degrees to our position. I had never seen so many cannon in one line. I did a lot to help the rhubarb grow that day.

Then we were behind our guns and the infantry who quickly despatched the remaining enemy cavalry. The enemy advanced in two lines: the Prussians along the Northern road and Russians the centre and southern road. The lead Russian Jaeger regiment made the town the same time as our infantry, but were repulsed after a brief but bitter struggle.

Our left flank deployed skirmishers to watch the edge of the woods, a nasty dark closed forest that troops could not keep formation in. It was just as well because they were faced by a crack Prussian Jaeger battalion and forced slowly back out of the trees, but that was all part of the generals plan. As the Prussians reached the edge of the wood they found a 12 pounder battery waiting to empty canister into them. It was enough and they retired back to the main Prussian army.

The rest of the brigade of infantry deployed in Grieto and held up the Russian advance from the south. By now our heavy cavalry had arrived and a second brigade was deployed to the north of the town threatening the Russians.

The Prussians undeterred by the retiring Jaegers marched straight down their road as if on parade. They were very brave, but the brave can die just as quickly from the canister fire and two more regiments were driven back.

The Massed cannons also played havoc with our units and we took casualties that must have reminded the older men of 1812, but the line held. Even when our artillery guarding the right flank lost its duel with the Russian guns the line still held.

To save the infantry the heavy cavalry moved forward and even threatened to catch a Russian regiment in march order but they were alert and soon formed line repelling the charge with ease. There was heavy cavalry action next and this time our superior numbers made short work of the enemy.

With the Prussians advanced slowed in the North and the town secured it fell once again to artillery to blow holes in our infantry and cavalry, but they were slowly retiring out of range of their guns. Our cavalry were resting and reforming. I guess their will be too and certainly they still advance with the foot. What will happen next? I can only guess!

The Last day of Grieto

Well I was not sad to leave the field of battle. It was getting rather hot for an old horse. The allied guns were blasting away at men and village and our line was recalled to the road out of range of most of the enemy guns. On the road near the village our three 12 pounders had been ordered to return fire to the three pesky Russian guns holding up our right flank and did so with some success.

The two grand batteries were slogging away at each other in good form; first we blew up a Prussian gun and then they returned the favour. Normally it is a quiet life being a gunner, but not today.

So why had I left the field of battle? Not for cowardly reasons but because our general had a cunning plan. He had heard from a villager that there was another road through the wood a few hours march to the north of our position and so we light horse and the infantry brigade were sent to explore. We were lead by our own Brigadier general, which was just as well, as we were nearly lost, but he could read a map and we found ourselves nicely placed behind the Prussian right flank.

By this time the allies had destroyed the hovels that used to Grieto and our army was deployed amongst the smouldering ruins. The heavy cavalry had been engaged again and caught a Cossack unit at the halt with great loss. All the cavalry had been engaged and were blown again when we arrived.

To our horror the Prussians had yet another battery behind the hills out of sight of our main lines and we thought we would have to face the shots alone, but our general was quite sensible and seeing the enemy stragglers and baggage train we pushed onwards cutting many wounded down and seizing the much valued stores; ahh grain and oats!

Of course the men quickly found the wines and soon drank more than was fit but we were lucky. The enemy had realised with their baggage train in our hands they would soon run short on shot and powder and made an orderly withdraw. Our troops were too spent to pursue and were content with holding the field and the extra rations.

The locals were not amused to find their homes smouldering and swore vengeance on the allies. It would not do to be a Russian courier in these woods for some time. They have started singing a sad bald of their town; "In the Grieto". The Prussians are unhappy at the reluctance of the Russian jaegers to advance and have started calling them "Hunter mensch".

Such is war. For now I get a warm blanket, rest and some good fodder. Sadly my warm stable was a little too hot.

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