Recommend
13 
 Thumb up
 Hide
4 Posts

The Last Success: Napoleon's March to Vienna, 1809» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Aspern-Essling – A Bridge to Far rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Andrew Hobley
United Kingdom
Andover
Hampshire
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Although I played these games some time ago the write up has got stuck in my ‘to do’ pile. So taking advantage of the Christmas holidays here we go –

Aspern-Essling is renowned as Napoleon’s first defeat. Too confident, believing the main Austrian Army was far away, he crossed the Danube to the east of Vienna, reliant on one rickety bridge from to south bank to Lobau Island. How wrong he was. Two days heavy fighting saw him retreat back to the south bank, with the loss of men, prestige and Marshal Lannes. Can I do any better?

Mr Zucker gives us two scenarios, Approach to Battle, starting on 21 May with the Austrians on the hills to the north and the French just having arrived at the eponymous villages, and Day of Battle, 22 May with the Austrians poised to fall on the French. As the Approach scenario should give a longer game I decided to start with that.

Note the ‘... should ...’ in that last sentence ....

The 21st started with a thunderstorm and the Austrian I Corps in road march mode. The Austrians quickly got going and advanced rapidly, the rain stopping by 2 pm.

2pm. The Austrian army pours onto the battlefield. Note the French vedettes out in front, keeping an eye on the Austrian advance guard.

The French also had some luck as IV Corps arrived early, but at 4pm an Austrian floating mill badly damaged the bridge across the main branch of the Danube [off map] – it would be nine long hours before it was fixed.

The French line was fixed on Aspern on the left, with Leguay’s Brigade occupying the church, then ran along the drainage ditch to Essling. Being so badly outnumbered Napoleon decided not to occupy the granary, strong point though it was. He also abandoned Gross-Enzerdorf. Cavalry occupied the ground between the villages, the Guard in reserve near the brickworks. Lannes commanded the right, Massena the left.

The Austrian plan was simple – VI and I Corps would hit Aspen, I Reserve Essling while IV Corps swung through Gross-Enzerdorf and II Corps stayed in reserve in the centre

4pm. Before the storm broke.

At 5pm the Austrians attacked, although IV Corps failed to move. A fearsome melee at Aspern saw the two sides locked in combat [Shock results and step losses for both sides in all three Austrian attacks] before the weight of the attack told and the church fell. Further attacks took the east of the village, the French held out in the centre for a time, but by 7pm all the village had fallen.

On the right IV Corps took its time in preparing for the attack. Meanwhile the Grenadier units of the Reserve Corps took Essling and the French cavalry was driven across the ditch.

6pm – the Austrian pressure tells.

In a desperate attack the Guard cavalry charged the Austrian cavalry and grenadiers threatening the French centre, overrunning and eliminating them. At the same time Lannes recaptured Essling. But the Austrian IV Corps was now ready; its attack retook the village as Massena and his Baden troops were pushed back from Aspern. Napoleon declared a French General Retreat as more French troops fell and the road to the bridge came under fire from Austrian infantry. It was going to be a difficult night ...

8pm and game end as the French try to retreat.

Counting up the French lost 46 SP, the Austrians 13; with all victory locations captured by the Austrians it was a Decisive Austrian Victory.

So the Approach to Battle did not even get into the second day. So how would the Day of Battle go?

The action starts at 4am, with the Austrians in possession of Essling and in the Gemende Au woods to the south. The French quickly cleared the woods and the east part of the village, while the Guard cavalry charged and with the Old Guard overran the IV Corps Advanced Guard, to the west of Gross-Enzerdorf. Initial Austrian attacks gained a lodgement in Aspern which held out for two hours, while the Austrian IV Corps attacks on Essling were repulsed.

5am and the French are regaining ground.

At the same time the bridge over the Danube broke, and would take 10 hours to fix, effectively ruling out any reinforcements. By 7am the French line looked strong, but in a cavalry engagement Bessieres was captured, as his men were forced back. Worse was to follow when at 8:30 Lannes, leading the cavalry was killed.

8am The villages hold, the centre does not.

At 9am the Austrians attacked all along the line, especially threatening the south of Essling, where the Guard was holding the ground. At 10am Essling fell to the Austrians, Aspen followed an hour later; French counter attacks were driven back. The French pocket slowly contacted; the Guard was not able to hold the Austrian advance south of Essling and the Guard cavalry and Baden infantry fell to a combined attack by IV and the Reserve when the fell into disorder. [Attack at 1:3, the Austrians rolled a 1, the only defender retreat result available].

3pm Collapse on the French right.

Napoleon withdrew, using the Guard and Cavalry as a heroic rearguard, who sacrificed themselves to allow the battered remnants of the army to retire.

French losses were 85 SP, Austrians 23 SP. Again, with three French corps demoralised and all the victory point locations in Austrian hands it was a decisive Austrian Victory.

Ouch, that was tough for the French. For once the poor Austrian command and control matters less; the short front line means Charles can put command where it is needed and once engaged the Austrians fight, even if they cannot advance after combat. So fast forward in time and onto the Marchfeld in July for Wagram.
11 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tom Swider
United States
Harrisburg
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
For the 8pm photo, it looks like Napoleon was subject to leader capture. That would have put a dent in his career.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew Hobley
United Kingdom
Andover
Hampshire
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Well spotted, but he was safe(ish), he's with Nagel's unit from IV Corps. And as that is a 7 strength unit the Austrian's to his left don't have much hope of winning the Napoleonic Wars.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jordi Prieto
Spain
Viladecans
Barcelona
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Nice session report, Andrew. Just one question: do you have any special motivations to use vedettes playing solo? I think they just make sense and shine with two players and fog of war... though I admit I solo-ed a game of this series using them ninja
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls