- Andrew Hobley(Andrew H)United Kingdom
So to the biggest battle yet, 300,000 men clash on the Austrian army’s summer training ground. I went for the Day of Battle scenario, starting early evening on 5 July, with the French across the Danube and closing on the Austrian army. The setup is shown below. Massena and IV Corps cover the French left, then from the French center south-east Bernadotte and the Saxons (IX Corps), Eugena and the Army of Italy, Oudinot and II Corps and Davout and III Corps, a large and powerful force. Napoleon, the Cavalry and the Guard form the reserve.
The Austrians, led by Archduke Charles, form three groups, Kleanu with VI Corps and Lichtenstein with the reserve on the Bisamberg, then a gap to Wagram. Garrisoning the heights behind the Russbach stream are Bellegarde’s I Corps, Hohenzollern with II Corps, Rosenberg with IV Corps and the remnants of Nordman’s Advance Guard.
Both sides should have reinforcements on 6 July, the French McDonald with the Army of Dalmatia and for the Austrians Kollowrat and II Corps. And there are other units which may appear for either side.
With two hours of daylight left Napoleon decides to probe the Austrian defences behind the Russbach stream. III Corps crossed the stream east of Glinzendorf and south of Markgrafneusiedl, the Italians were ordered across the stream into Baumersdorf, which the Austrian’s had left temporarily unoccupied [result of the Formation Scattered card on the Austrians] while the Saxons attacked Wagram.
The results were mixed. By midnight Davout’s men had taken and held the southern half of Markgrafneusiedl and were forming up to ascend the heights. The Italians and II Corps managed to get across the stream and hold on in places, including Baumersdorf. But in the north things were different. Wagram fell to the Saxon assault, but Bernadotte then rested on his laurels. Overcoming their initial shock [all officers other than Bellegarde failed their command rolls] the Austrian I Corps counterattacked, supported by the Reserve Corps cavalry. Wagram was retaken, the 1st Saxon division was overwhelmed by the Austrian cavalry, and the Saxon’s demoralised. Midnight saw the battle end. [Unusually for LNB combat is allowed during the first night turn].
In what little was left of the night Charles issued his orders for the next day. Kleanu’s Corps was to sweep across the Marchfeld to the French rear to Essling, Lichtenstein’s Reserve and II Corps would push back the French centre while the Markgrafneusiedl heights would be held. Napoleon’s plan was simpler – take the heights.
At 4am it all began again. For the next few hours the Italians and II Corp attacked across the river, sometimes gaining a foothold, more often being thrown back with losses. Baumersdorf changed hands several times.
Meanwhile south of Wagram the Austrian assault got under way and very quickly overran yet another Saxon Brigade. By 5am Napoleon had a hole in his centre. He tried to fill it with the Cavalry Corps and the Guard. The Saxon cavalry joined the Guard Heavy cavalry and 2nd and 3rd Cavalry Brigades in charging the oncoming Austrian columns. The Austrians formed battalion columns (essentially solid squares) and drove off the French cavalry, shattering the Guard heavy cavalry, repulsing the Young Guard infantry and demoralising the French cavalry Corps. The victorious Austrians drive forward, overrunning more Saxons, demoralising the Imperial Guard and driving past Aderklaa. [Losses at the end of the 6 am turn – Austrians 28 SP; French 96!].
On the French left Massena had come up and was holding off, with difficulty, Kleanu’s VI Corps. As a dust storm blanketed the battlefield, the Austrians overran the Young Guard and broke through the few surviving Saxons. Napoleon realised he had to pull back his left and centre and reorganise. One blessing was Bernadotte had been killed in an Austrian cavalry attack – it would save Napoleon having him shot afterwards.
But what of Davout’s III Corps? Steadily, steadily the veterans had driven the Austrians out of the rest of Markgrafneusiedl, taken the heights, pushed through the Austrian camps (the fortifications in the illustrations), wiped out the Austrian Advanced Guard and ground up Rosenberg’s IV Corps. As Napoleon pulled back Rosenberg’s men collapsed under the pressure, Hohenzollern was killed and the Austrian supply line to Moravia was cut. Charles realised he had to pull back if he was to save the army and the Hapsburg dynasty.
The Austrian baggage trains fled via Wagram, heading to exit the field to Brünn and the Austrians across the Rushbach stream began to pull back. The French II and III Corps swept over the plateau and as the dust storm gave way to a hot afternoon the Austrian line fell back. The French on the Machfeld reorganised and then pursued as the Austrians tried to retire to the Bisamberg. But command control was not the Austrian’s strong point and as units fell behind the pursuing French had their revenge. By 5pm the last of the Austrian army had exited.
The French loses were heavy – 87 SP eliminated, 28 SP lost when units were reorganised and Bernadotte killed. But the Austrians were crushed – 244 SP lost, Nordman, Rosenberg and Hollenzohen all killed. It was an overwhelming French victory – and given Charles had said, before the battle, that the survival of the House of Hapsburg depended on preserving the army, it may be time for a new ruler in Vienna – Davout Prince of Austria anyone?
What went so wrong for the Austrians? The main issue (other than my play ) is the poor command control they have. For the French Massena and Davout as Commander-Officers will always be in command, so the flanks will always be working, while Napoleon can juggle three corps in the centre, and here the officer’s initiatives are not bad for those who have to motivate themselves. For the Austrians Charles can command two Corps, and most of his officers will not act two times out of three. This is a real problem when trying to make a whole army retreat. Perhaps sacrificing one Corps as an out of command rearguard and leading the others off would have worked better. Also Charles got too caught up in the offensive to deal with the left flank collapse in time.
So that was enough of Austrian for the time being. Next I was off to 1813 and Four Lost Battles.
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