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Subject: Valutino – Burning our bridges rss

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Andrew Hobley
United Kingdom
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Moving chronologically we come to Valutino. Smolensk has fallen; Barclay’s 1st Army has marched east, but failed to wait for Bagration’s 2nd Army, which has dithered, delayed and at one stage marched in a circle in the night! Can the French cut off their retreat?

For the Russians the aim is to get as many units off as possible. There are a series of steams – west to east the Stabina, Kolodnya and Stroganka, before the river Erovenka is reached, with the Kolodnya stream forming the southern flank. But the Erovenka is easily crossed upstream, and the whole defensive line is can be outflanked once the French cross the southern Dnepr ford. The French know where the ford are (so Kevin Zucker says the ‘Scouts Find Fords’ cards can be removed if you are using the cards).

In my game both Russians and French had units scatted at the start. The Russian III Corps (centre and right in the photo) had obviously got lost in the night, with the commander in the woods a good 2 kilometres from his men. Ney’s III Corps (north of Smolensk) was also in a bit of a mess. The other French units are Grouchy with III Cav north of Ney, Murat with I and II Cav south of the bend of the river, the Poles of V Corps near him. For the Russians Platov’s Cossacks cover the rear of a scatted II Corps in the words north-east of the city. IV Corps is on the trails centre map and II Cav holds the road north of the Dnepr bend.

The set up.

All Russian units started in command, which given Bagration can only put one Corps into command and most Russian commanders have a low initiative, was a blessing. III Corps moved into road mode to move faster and began to move towards the south-west and IV Corps marched to Valutina Gora, while II Corps hurried over the tracks towards the Vyazaven’ka stream crossings. Murat had started asleep, but quickly work. V Corps was ordered across the Prudyshchevo ford and I Cavalry followed.

Ney took some time to sort III Corps out; as Murat stayed south of the river Ney was out of command range and it was not until 9am that III Corps attacked the Russian cavalry rear guard. Grouchy’s cavalry had begun to harass the Cossacks as they fell back, and the Russian II Corps was preparing to defend the Stabina. South of the Kolodnya Uvarov’s I Cavalry were confronting the Polish corps cavalry as it left the Lapino woods.

The French attack.

At 10 am all changed as Bagration declared a General Retreat. All Russian forces had a march order to leave the map by the road at the east edge. Only if they moved next to a French unit, or were ordered by their leader to stop, would then lose that command. Again this was a God send - the Smolensk Icon of the Holy Mother of God must have been on overtime. Most Russian forces began to head east, and to add to the French problems the II Cavalry Corps of both sides met, the French being caught in the flank, two heavy cavalry units broke and Montbrun, the Corps commander was captured.

III Corps struggled to pursue as the Russian II Cavalry Corps fell back and then held the rallied II Cavalry and the II Corps cavalry for some time. It was not until 3pm the road was finally clear and by that time the Russians were out of reach.

The Poles to the south were initially unsure [a failed initiative roll for Poniatowski], but then crossed the Latoshino bridge, cutting the road.

The Poles cross the stream.

II and IV Corps struck back. In a too and fro struggle the Poles came off worse, with part of 18 Division being caught by cavalry and routed. Bagration slowly fell back along the road with II and IV Corps, helped by Nansouty in charge of the French I Corps to the south getting lost in the woods [four turns of failed initiative die rolls!] and Grouchy to the north being uncertain. It was not till around 5pm Grouchy closed in on the Russians near Sokolova. The Poles had advanced, Murat brought up II Cavalry, but Osterman and the IV Corps formed a rearguard, burning bridges with abandon to hold the pursuit up.

The gallant rear guard.

Grouchy crossed the river Erovenka at Sokolova before the Russians could get to the bridge and destroy it. But it was too late to stop II Corps getting away; IV Corps finally fell under attacks from all side.

There was a final, almost comic, ending in the west of the map. The last unit of the Russian II Cavalry Corps, Davydov’s cavalry, had been forced south over the Kolodnya stream, but in their haste to pursue the French has not followed to into the woods to isolate and destroy the Russians. Near dusk the cavalry suddenly burst over the stream, rampaged through III and II Cavalry baggage and occupied Valutina Gora [finally passed a unit initiative roll twice].

Away home for the Russians.

At nightfall the French has lost 18 SP, the Russians 17. Adding up VP gave the French 6 and the Russians -3 (from card play). But the Scenario rules say if the SP differential is within 7 SP the game is a draw, 0 a Russian tactical victory. So a draw it was.

I did found that exciting. Next time, if I get a general retreat card, I need to keep some Russian cavalry to the north as a screen. And if I don’t get the card – well, things will be very interesting!

Next on towards Moscow – what can there be to stop the French en route? Borodino? Never heard of it, not important - En avant!
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