Working through the scenarios it made sense, as I had the map out, to try the mini campaign of 16 June with both the battles. When drawing the mode cards the French had a nasty shock. First was ‘Road Mode’ – the Guard as the strongest force was redeployed. Not a major issue. Next came ‘Scattered’ and the Allies rolled for the French option of moving one force back to its supply source. The next strongest force after the Guard was II Corps – and this meant a redeployment back from Quatre-Bras to almost Gosseliers just ahead of I Corps! I checked with Kevin Zucker on COMSIM – yes this was right. So the French start with Ney and a few cavalry in front of the cross roads. The French also drew late start – Kevin has since suggested the ‘Late Start’ is reflected by the scenario starting at 2pm so remove that card from the pack before play.
Mini campaign 2pm – All Quiet on the Western Front.
So the action stated at Ligny, where only IV Corps started in command. They quickly pushed the Prussians out of the town, routing the 19th Infantry Regiment. The Prussians partly pushed the French back, but the attack on the eastern part of the town was repulsed. 3pm saw Napoleon spring into action, sending III Corps into the St Amand villages and routing the defenders. At Ligny IV Corps crossed the river, only to be partly thrown back leaving Desprez’s brigade in the midst of the Prussians.
Ligny 3pm Desprez isolated
The Young Guard joined in, crossing the stream to the west of Ligny and pushing back I Corps. IV Corps took the rest of Ligny and III Corps switched their attack more to the north. Zeithen was killed when I Corps artillery was overrun and II Corps cavalry came to reinforce the Prussians increasingly threadbare right flank. Napoleon felt unwell and rested, but Soult rose to the challenge and improved his order despatch ['Napoleon Rests -2 to commands card' countered by 'Chief of Staff card +1 commands']. As the French pushed forward the Prussians began to fall back - by nightfall they were north of the Namur road. As daylight faded a French attack on Sombref was repulsed.
Meanwhile what had Ney been up to? II Corps hurried up the road, in battle order, and by 6pm were ready to attack. Wellington now had Picton’s men in the Gémioncant farm the Brunswick troops on their left and the Dutch covering the line from Pierrpont Farm in front of the woods.
Ney decided to take a gamble. Kellerman’s cuirassiers formed up and charged Saxe-Weimar’s men, who were in the open, as 5 and 9 Divisions attacked them. But the Dutch stood firm, the artillery massacred the cavalry and at the point of the bayonet the Dutch hurled back both French divisions. To the south the Dutch were pushed from the farm. French follow up attacks saw the Dutch pushed into the woods, before repulsing the French, Picton’s men standing firm and the Brunswick cavalry holding off II Corps cavalry. As night fell it was clear who held the crossroads.
8pm - win some lose some.
Counting the casualties the French (apart from Kellermans) had come off lightly. The Prussian I Corps had been mauled – only Treswko’s cavalry and the horse artillery were unreduced. Adding it all up 32 to 7 VP and a French Strategic Victory.
Afterwards it occurred to me that I need not have sent II Corps to Quatre Bras, but rather could have sent them to Marbais and the Prussian flank. If this had been the start of the campaign game I may well have done that. Wellington’s men, even if just screened by French cavalry, are not strong enough to intervene and help the Prussians. A decisive defeat of the Prussians on 16th leaves Napoleon plenty of time to drive off Wellington’s forces, and having three corps attacking instead of two could give that decisive defeat. Something to think about later.