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Subject: Fleurus – Approach to Battle rss

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Andrew Hobley
United Kingdom
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Thanks to the office being closed over the holiday period I was able to get in two full games of Fleurus, choosing the Approach to Battle next as I had the maps and the forces out. This gives us seven hours of 25 June and all of the 26th. Played solo, with the hidden units rules; although all markers removed for the photos.

– Fleurus AtB setup.

Once again where are all the units? Four of the Coalition columns are reinforcements as is most of the French Left Wing. The French Reserve is besieging Charleroi, a division of the Left Wing and the Centre to the north, the Advance Guard out at Fleurus and the Right Wing east of Chaleroi. Quosdanovich’s II Column approaches from Nivelles, Charles’ IV Colum from Warve.

As the scenario name suggests the first day saw the Austrian columns approaching, Kaunitz’s III Column coming from Brussels and Beaulieu’s V from Namur. Jourdan, supervising the siege of Chaleroi, sent Marceau and the Right Wing towards Fleurus, to reinforce Lefebvre’s Advance Guard. Montaigu’s Division of the Left Wing made good time and arrived in time to make to Hayettes on the left flank by nightfall.

By 7:30 pm Coburg had assembled II and III Columns in front of the French centre at Melle and decided on a pre dusk attack. It did not go well. On the French right the cavalry withdrew covered by artillery before Austran infantry forced the battery and its supporting infantry brigade back; on the right Spiegall’s Brigade and artillery came out of the woods before the stream, having been harassed by skirmishers and barely had time to try to deploy when they were routed [What turned out to be a 1:3 attack and a 6 AE rolled!].

As night fell Charles settled around St Amand as Beaulieu’s men drew nigh. Charleroi had refused to surrender, buoyed up by a message brought through the French lines by Captain Radetzky, saying help was on its way. Concerned about rumours of Dutch columns approaching from the west Jordan ordered the Reserve Cavalry to Gosselies.

– Fleurus AtB Nighfall on the 25th.

The next day the battle fell into three main actions, on the French left, around Melle in the centre and around on the right around Fleurus.

On the left Daurier’s Division of the French left wing arrived and occupied Marchienne north of the river. The Dutch 1st right division arrived and slowly headed towards Jumet. Seeing their slow progress Jordan ordered Montaigu’s Division to head south and, abandoning the siege of Charleroi, ordered the Reserve to Haigne, to cover the middle of the left flank.

The Dutch right hand column, under Fredrick, arrived and attacked Marchienne. A cavalry charge by the French 7th Cavalry rode down the Dutch cavalry before the French were shot down, but this delayed the Dutch attack on the town [Shock combat result, both sides eliminated their cavalry]. Riesch’s Austrian battalion, part of the Dutch right hand column which had entered to the north, tried to hold Montaigu’s Division (lead by Jourdan) west of St Roch, but was unceremoniously bundled back into the woods, encircled and routed. Boisset’s Division attempted to break the Dutch cordon round Marchienne, and was held in fierce fighting. A further Dutch attempt into break in to Marchienne was a disaster, all the Dutch being routed. [Another 1:3 attack and a 6 DE]. Fredrick himself fled to Charleroi. [Escaping a ‘capture’ die roll the rules say the leader goes to the nearest friendly unit – which was the Charleroi garrison. So off Fredrick went].

– Fleurus AtB 10 am Dutch High Water mark.

Further north the Dutch left hand column made steady progress against the French cavalry screen and even took the Priory from the Reserve Corps. But the southern cessation of cannon noise from the south and the arrival of routers from the right column suggested all was not well. William order a halt and then a retirement as he realised he was in danger of being cut off from the north. The Dutch moved back steadily, shadowed by the French Reserve, and managed to escape past Celles before Duhseme’s Division from the Left Wing could cut them off. [I decided the terrain key was not an impassable obstacle and, checking the online version of the Ferries map, established there were bridges and trails over the stream.]

Jourdan ordered the two Left Wing divisions to resume the siege of Charleroi. Fredrick had finally managed to rally two weak units to add to the city garrison. But the ending of any noise of combat from the north and north-west and the shock of the sudden loss of a whole Dutch column mean when the French reappeared and demanded surrender the garrison laid down its arms at 4 pm [The rules don’t say what happens to the siege if there are more than the original garrison in the city, so I played it as written - on a 6 the garrison, whoever they are, surrender].

In the centre Duhseme’s Division of the Left Wing, under the command of Keliber, and Championnet’s Center held the stream and the village of Mellet. Kaunitz’s III Column opened with an attack on the village which was pushed back. The Austrian’s came on again and gained a lodgement in the village; then were held at bayonet point. But on the left Keliber ordered an attack on the II Column. The first assault was thrown back, a second made better progress until the cavaly on the Frnech left were pushed back. An Austrian counter attack routed Fuiser’s brigade. The on the Austrian left their cavalry were thrown back; French cavalry pushed into their rear, Frecnh infantry attacked across the stream and by 10 am only one Austrian infantry brigade of II Column was left. Keliber tried a similar tactic, but with less immediate success; the cavaly became trapped between Austrian guns and horse, and Speigal’s Austrian brigade held hard.

– Fleurus AtB 10 am Austrian disaster in the centre

In a confused melee the French left wing cavalry went down, but Speigal’s brigade went down. With both Austrian columns reduced to a few cavalry and artillery the centre pulled back to Frasne, so freeing Keliber to move Duhseme’s Division to try and cut the Dutch withdrawal off.

On the French right it was a different matter. Despite some dithering by Charles and Beaulieu the Austrians came on, were repulsed and came on again. The French were pushed from the Planicet stream, forced out of the Fleurus chateaux and gradually surrounded and ground down. By noon the French admitted defeat and the remains of the Right wing and Advance Guard pulled back. Coburg had moved over to the right and directed the Austrian push down the highway to Charleroi, driving the French from redoubts and chateau.

– Fleurus AtB 10 am Austrian advance on the right

But the advance could not continue. Vezu’s Division and the artillery arrived to bolster the French Right Wing, the Left Wing divisions headed from Charleroi towards the right and Jordan, having moved to the centre, left Championnet’s Centre down on the Austrian flank. Coburg pulled back to the start positions of the morning at St Amand.

The day ended with all the Coalition columns thrown back and Chaleroi taken. Apparently a clear French victory. Losses were to the French advantage 18 French SP lost as opposed to 52 Coalition SP. The French held 20 VP locations, the Coalition 15. So a French Tactical victory – before the cards are taken into account. With those considered it was a 25 VP each tie – a Coalition tactical victory – just.

Once again quite a game. The Coalition did get an Alternate Reinforcement card on the second day, but decided by the time these would have arrived they would not have time to go into action in any meaningful way. If they had arrived they may have stopped the French Centre Division moving to threaten the Austrian left wing – but the only real result would have been a 3 VP loss to the Coalition.

So now to the north and some place called Mont St Jean.
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