Here is an AAR about Hoche trying to relieve the siege of Landau in 1793. For those who have never heard of Hoche, he was certainly the best general of his time...yeah, I mean ahead of Napoleon. Hoche actually created the "Corps" used during the imperial era and Napoleon learned from this campaign of 1793 in ths Vosges mountains.
Here is the initial deployment.
Turn of November 19th
With only divisions Taponier and Huet, it's still dangerous to come to close to the Prussian army in retreat to its winter quarters. Ambert would arrive the next day by Homburg, too late to cut the retreat path of the Prussian forces under Kalckreuth and Knobelsdorff. Vincent is 35 miles away and would also need several days to arrive. For these reasons, Hoche only moves to Deux-Ponts and takes control of the cross-roads.
In the Valley of the Rhine, Pichegru orders his divisions to move west toward the Vosges. His plan to move from the road of Saverne to Bouxweiler and Pfaffenhaufen, threatening Wurmser's center and right wing. This move started well, Pichegru pushing his divisions forward.
Turn of November 20th
In the Vosges, Hoche still let the Prussian army retreat. In the Valley of the Rhine, things are moving. While the French army of the Rhine was moving on the left to threaten Bouxweiler and Pfaffenhaufen, general von Wurmser decided to respond to the French offensive by threatening Strasbourg with two columns, those of the Prince of Waldeck and general von Kospoth. This move brought Pichegru to withdraw Desaix division on the right wing closer to Strasbourg to protect the city. Hatry's division was sent on the track to Haguenau close to the Zorn. Férino and Michaud were several miles away from Saverne. The French army was nicely spread out before its attack while the Austrian were concentrating their forces on their right : Hotze withdrew from Niederbronn toward Haguenau and Pfaffenhaufen. Meanwhile, the Prince of Prussia was moving toward Oberweidental to be able to move to Pirmasens if needed.
Turn of November 21st
While Férino is moving toward Brumath - where Wurmser has his headquarters, the Austrian commander in chief was thinking of destroying this lone division using Baron Spleny's corps for the main attack and Condé plus Hotze to outflank Férino. If the opportunity to destroy one of the main French division was great, there were still black spots : there was a division, very close to Férino, south of the Zorne which could easily help him plus Wurmser wasn't sure that Condé and Hotze could actually join the fight. Last but not least, the terrain was at the advantage of the French.
Combat of Hochfelden
The battle started by the attack of the corps of Baron Spleny against Férino's lines. Soon, general von Hotze began his movement to reinforce the Austrian but so did général Hatry. [Hatry and Hotze are both flanking forces ; ratio is 10SP + 8SP/2 vs 10 SP + 8SP/2 ; terrain is difficult ; French morale is 3 so is Austrian's. Situation is lightly in favor of the French side but with no decisive advantage, but Spleny does have some heavy cavalry in reserve...]. Pichegru, receiving the news of the battle, resolve to hold his positions and accept the battle. Wurmser, finally not so sure of being able to bit the French, will only skirmish all day without attempting anything. [Skirmish is an attacker's decision meant to reduce losses for both side - but it also prevent the player to actually win or advance if the defender retreats from battle. Then both player roll a die and must get a score below or equal to their efficiency. French efficiency is 3 (morale) +1 (terrain) -1 (flank force). Austrian efficiency is 3 (morale) -1 (flank force). Both players shamely fail their roll. The battle is a draw with a base 5% losses for each side, divided by 2 because of the Skirmish.]. After a day of skirmish along the Zorn and around Hochfelden, both armies lost less than 500 men for no gain. [however, both forces are still exhausted].
Later that day, Division Michaud joined Férino, reinforcing the French left. On their right, von Kospoth forces moved into the woods north of Strasbourg and there, identified the division under Desaix with around 11,000 men that was covering the city. Wurmser had 14,000 men in his left wing under Waldeck and Kospoth and couldn't be sure Desaix didn't have more men that his cavalry reported. However the terrain was clear. The Prince of Waldeck was finally order not to start a fight but to close the French lines. The idea was to force Pichegru to send Hatry to the south and gain the upper hand on the right wing.
In the Vosges, Hoche began his movement toward Bitche with two divisions, Huet and Taponier. Ambert moved to Deux-Ponts, covering Hoche's back.
[At the end of the turn, the activated troops are turned 90° to their 'ready' position ; the exhausted ones are turned 90° on their 'activated' position and then have to roll a die under the initiative of their general in order to get back to their 'ready' position. If not, they remain on their 'activated' position, which will limit their action on the next turn. Plus, for each force that end the turn in this position, the army loose one morale.]
Turn of November 22nd
As Hoche was advancing through the Vosges toward Niederbronn, von Wurmser sent the Prince de Condé to that good defensive position to hold the ground and defend the Austrian right flank. At the same time, as ordered by Hoche, Ambert started his move and marched to Pirmasens in order to threaten Kaiserslautern and have the Prussian stay west of a line Bitche - Kaiserslautern.
[At this time, the Prussian player would really like to move two of his corps to Deux-Ponts and threaten Hoche's lines of communications. But in order to move away from Kaiserslautern, a Prussian force must be 'in command' and roll a die under the initiative of the Herzog von Braunschweig. Reason is 1/ Prussian forces must enter their winter quarters and 2/ the King of Prussia has ordered the Duke not to act too offensively against the French and spare them as much as possible (!)]
Battle of Brumath
With the Austrian forces spread out again thanks to Hoche advance and Wurmser useless move toward Strasbourg, Pichegru decides to move against the Austrian center at Brumath. Michaud starts the action by attacking north of the Zorn along the main road to Haguenau. Quickly, division Hatry is committed to the battle as well as division Férino - Férino who manages to put his division in order of battle despite the exhaustion of his troops. But von Hotze marches to the sounds of the guns and arrives lately on Michaud and Férino's rear. [terrain is clear ; ratio is 10SP + 10SP/2 + 8SP /2 against 10SP + 8SP/2 ; efficiency are 3 (French morale) -1 (flank march) = 2 for the French and 3 (Austrian morale) -1 (Exhaustion of main defender) -1 (ratio) = 1. Pichegru decides to attack ; Wurmser decides to retreat. He gets a bonus of -2 to his initiative die roll to attempt the retreat because the battle is "prepared" - but still fail. Both players roll their efficiency. The French rolls a 5, the Austrian rolls a wonderful 1.]
While the attack started well, several batallions of Férino ran away shouting "Nous sommes trahis !" (we have been betrayed !) as they saw the first elements of von Hotze's column. Quickly, the whole division Férino is pushed back and that movement will soon cause the attack to stop. [The Austrian decides to add 1 to his success by loosing 1SP of Spleny's heavy cavalry]. Then, seeing an opportunity, von Spleny ordered the Mack and Hohenzollern cuirassiers regiments to attack. The Austrian heavy cavalry broke the French lines which fled in disorder. The French lost 1,400 killed and wounded (1SP) against about 450 overall casualty for the Austrian. But Wurmser fails to pursue the French Army of the Rhine, thus loosing a great opportunity to win a decisive victory. [then, for the looser, for each division engaged in the battle, the morale is modified by the difference between the final modified efficiency rolls : the difference is -2 [0 for the French who failed -2 for the Austrian] and there were 3 divisions in the battle : -6. The winner of the battle wins 1 point per division engaged.]. The French army retreated back south of the Zorn in disorder.
On the Prussian side, von Knobelsdorff was sent to Landstuhl, west of Kaiserslautern to be prepared for a move to threaten Hoche's lines of communication. But the latter received several reinforcements : divisions Vincent coming from Limbach which arrived in Deux-Ponts and division Jacob at Bitche.
Analysis of some of the events.
In his book "Histoire critique et militaire des guerres de la Révolution", general Jomini is particularly harsh in his comments toward Pichegru's actions in this campaign. If it is true that Pichegru never achieved any decisive result by attacking all along a 25km front ; you may have seen how difficult it is to gain a decisive advantage when both armies have about the same strength (a little advantage for the French though, but not that much). The terrain is really tough for the attackers on the Austrian right, where it is better to move to reunite with Hoche's forces. Plus, during a battle, you will rely on how your troop will behave. And clearly, it was impossible to be sure of this behaviour before the battle. Of course, I may have had better result if I sent Desaix into battle rather than Hatry. He had more men and he has a tactical bonus. But then their was a risk that Hatry could not successfully cover Strasbourg.
Turn of November 23rd
Battle of Niederbronn
In the early morning of November, 23rd, Hoche's divisions Huet and Taponier start their attack on the Prince de Condé at Niederbronn. Hoche have 14,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry against 4,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry for Condé ; but the ground held by the Emigrés corps is a very good one indeed. [Ratio is over 2-1 (which is now the maximum) ; ground is wooded moutains ; efficiency are 3 (French morale) -1 (ground) +1 (ratio) against 3 (emigrés' morale) +1 (ground) -1 (ratio) for a 3-3. Both players commit fully to the battle. Rolls are 3 for the French and 1 for the Emigrés. Would the French roll a 4 (which would have been a failure) and thanks to the general-in-chief tactical bonus, they would have the opportunity to modify the dieroll by +1 or -1 if the general-in-chief passed an initiative check.]. Despite a fantastic position and a good resistance from the Emigrés, Hoche could not be stopped. The French lost about 700 casualties for 400 émigrés. Condé's corps was routed. During the terrible pursuit that follows, 800 men are taken prisonners, killed or wounded.
Receiving notice of a battle on his flank, von Wurmser quickly dispatched von Spleny into the Forest de Haguenau, on the road from Niederbronn to Haguenau. Jacob moved to Stulzerbronn to threaten Lembach and the overall retreat path of the Austrian Army. Hohenlohe, in the camps of Nottweiler, was indeed in a good position to counter this last move from the French Armée de la Moselle, but the order has to come from the commander-in-chief, who was still in Kaiserslautern. Wurmser resolved to retreat from the line of the Zorn. In the west, Général Ambert abandonned Pirmasens to head to the fort of Bitche in order to protect Hoche's main line of communication with his base.
As the Austrian army began its retreat toward a new line of defense, Desaix followed on the right wing. And while von Braunschweig tried to threaten Bitche and Deux-Ponts by sending a corps under the Duke of Weimar in Pirmasens, Pichegru launched a new attack with his three divisions, on the same battlefield where he suffered the defeat of the 22nd.
This time, with 8,000 men against Pichegru's 27,000, Wurmser retreated quickly and successfully. During the pursuit, the Austrian cavalry sacrificed itself to cover the infantry. Wurmser lost around 1,200 casualties and prisonners, Pichegru only about 340.
At Pirmasens, the Duke of Weimar is joined by the Prince of Prussia. Later, von Spleny reached Reichhoffen, where he intended to fight Hoche as long as needed for the Austrian army to make its retreat. Jacob was closing Lembach and Reichhoffen.
At the end of the day, seeing that Pichegru's division, despite having fought well that day, had a very changing morale and were apparently not driven by an unstoppable Revolutionnary ideal ; Saint-Just and Lebas (two "representatives of the people" with almost almighty power on the Army of the Rhine) chose several officers to be sent to the Revolutionnary court. They would soon loose their head for not being able to rally their troops or being bad Republicans. But their action privailed and the terror brought the Army of the Rhine to be ready for battle, once again. [Once in the game for each French army, the player may call for the Representatives to rally the troops. The action is done at the end of the turn, if the army has fought and the morale modifier is -1 or less. For each division that fought during the turn, the player checks for the initiative. Each success had +1 morale.]
Turn of November 24th
Battle of Reichhoffen
As the sun is just starting to rise in the Alsacian sky, Hoche orders his troops forward. von Spleny sets his troops in order of battle and awaits the French onslaught on good defensive positions behind river Sauer. Hearing the sounds of the guns, Jacob rush to join the battle on the Austrian's right flank (which is a great surprise, as Jacob has an initiative of 2) and changes the issue of the battle in favour of the French. Spleny's troops, attacked frontaly by Hoche and turned by Jacob, overwhelmed by 23,000 men, broke the ranks and fled from the battlefield. Spleny was unable to coordinate a good retreat. The French loose around 550 casualties for 2,400 Austrian casualties and prisonners.
Close to the Rhine, the Prince of Waldeck and von Kospoth were retreating slowly, followed closely by Desaix.
From Pirmasens, corps of the Prince of Prussia and the Duke of Weimar moved toward the fort of Bitche, hold by division Ambert. To support his defense and because Deux-Ponts was not a strategic position at that time, the division Vincent left Deux-Ponts and slowly started to move toward Bitche.
Meanwhile, Pichegru sent Hatry's division to the western road of Haguenau via Pfaffenhaufen. von Wurmser established his new headquarters in Weissembourg.
Turn of November 25th
In order to forfeit a possible march to the sounds of the guns of von Spleny to Haguenau for the scheduled attack that day, Hoche ordered Jacob to engage von Spleny's corps in a series of skirmish across the Sauer. This action will be totally successful, the French suffering 300 casualties for 350 Austrians'.
But before Pichegru could even start his attack, Hotze's column retreated toward Weissembourg and established a line of defense behind the Sauer. However, Desaix managed to make contact with Prince Waldeck's column and to drive it away from the Forest de Haguenau taking over a thousand prisonners.
In the Vosges, Braunschweig understood that he had to leave his winter quarters and disobey the King's orders if he wanted to save his ally's army. The Prussian already had around 15,000 men ready to attack Bitche, but the fort had been reinforced earlier by the division Vincent : the duke would have to wait for von Kalkreuth and von Knobelsdorff to join the fight via Deux-Ponts. The latter reached that town lately on the 25th with 10,000 men.
But what Braunschweig had not foreseen was the arrival of a new division of the Armée des Ardennes : the division Grangeret with 6,000 troops...
Turn of November 26th
After several days of fighting, Hoche finally overcome von Spleny at Woerth, the latter ordering the retreat soon enough to avoid crushed by the numbers. Losses of the combat of Woerth were slightly lighter than usual with about 700 casualties and prisonners for the Austrian for 300 French casualties.
Then, the young French general concentrated his forces around Lembach, calling division Ambert from Bitche and having sent Huet from Reichhoffen to the west hights of Lembach by the moutains. Hoche now had four divisions ready to break through the coalition ranks. The French army of the Rhine, having followed Wurmser's forces during their retreat, was now deployed north of river Sauer, holding very poor positions. Only Desaix on the far right close to the Rhine held some good defensive positions.
Turn of November 27th
Hoche was finally choosen by the Representatives of the People as the commander-in-chief of both the Army of the Moselle and the Army of the Rhine. As such, he could issue direct orders to any division of the army of the Rhine. [every turn, the French player may roll 2 dice to have one of his generals-in-chief declared overall commander-in-chief. The player adds modifiers depending on the victory and defeats of Pichegru and Hoche. The result may be no effect, Pichegru or Hoche. Here, Hoche has been luckily choosen - which is a relief for the French player...]
Battle of Lembach
Quickly reorganising his staff for his new big role, Hoche ordered divisions Jacob and Hatry to attack Lembach, hoping to draw the Austrian forces into a trap. The maneuver worked : Hohenlohe and von Hotze marched to the sound of the guns. 49,000 French soldiers attacked 26,000 Prussians and Austrians from all directions, Férino marching to the sounds of the guns without any orders from Pichegru. Hohenlohe rushed into battle and try to relief the Austrians. His behaviour that day was "Magnifique" as reported General Huet who crushed his right flank. Finally, the Austrian lines colapsed and the Coalition army fled in disorder. Only Hohenlohe was able to retreat in a relative order, saving his corps from complete destruction. Hoche had lost 2,400 men killed and wounded. Hohenlohe suffered the greatest losses of the coalition forces, with 1,600 casualties and 2,400 prisonners. The Austrians had 1,000 casualties and 1100 prisonners.
Battle of Bitche
West of the Vosges, general von Knobelsdorff deployed his troop for an attack on the fort of Bitche, quickly joined by Weimar and the Prince of Prussia. Grangeret and Vincent, with 12,000 men deployed on fantastic position, would hold against 25,000 Prussians. The Prussians suffered 1,250 casualties for 300 French killed and wounded. During the pursuit, the French captured 2,400 Prussians soldiers.
This defeat, suffered by the Herzog von Braunschweig himself, added to the defeat of Lembach, ended all hopes to rebuild a defensive line on the Lauter. The Austrian army was no more able to fight (morale modifier of -2) and the Prussian army was shaken after 10 days of French successes (morale modifier of -1). Nothing could prevent the French to take Weissembourg and threaten Prussians lines of communication and to relieve the city of Landau. von Wurmser, without any discussion with his colleague from Prussia, ordered the full retreat of the Austrian army across the Rhine.
The French pursued the Austrians and Desaix captured Lauterberg, held by von Götze - a brigade of the Prince of Prussia's corps. Götze lost the two third of his troops, fleeing in disorder.
I decided to stop the game at that moment ; there was nothing more the Coalition side could do.
- Last edited Wed Feb 15, 2017 7:24 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Feb 14, 2017 8:20 pm
Wonderful news ! As far as I know, the topic has never been covered and is very interesting.
I haven't seen any game on the subject. The fact is that it's pretty difficult to simulate this campaign. First of all, finding the sources of quality is the most complicated, as you have to know what you are searching for to find them...Secondly, in my game, there are differences between tracks and roads...and no map of this era made any difference between them. Thirdly, it is easy to find precise orders of battle for the August campaign...but there are not many documents available for the winter campaign.
But in the end, I manage to overcome everything, and could come with this. It will be a VaeVictis game. Rules will be a bit easier ; I understood that lots of people found them too much complicated. I really hope, you will all like this new game.
By the way, I'm searching for playtesters...if interested, send me a MP !
I had a quick game last week end. While I managed to drive the Austrian behind the Mottern and slowly take the edge along the Rhine, Hoche was unable to move south due to the threat of the Prussian forces on his lines of communications. In the end, the first part of the campaign ended up after about a week, with very few accomplished west of the Vosges and the situation being stable along the Rhine with Wurmser's forces occupying new strong positions.
I also had two players discovering the system and the scenario. The French attempted quite a weird move by sending Hoche directly towards Landau. It nearly succeeded, the French were able to move into the Valley of the Rhine but were then held off...before Prussian forces could block Hoche's lines of communications. HE had to quickly move back and miraculously re-open his lines...But the whole French maneuver was abandonned. Along the Rhine, the campaign started well for the French with several victories. But Wurmser concentrated his forces and defeated Pichegru. After over 10 days of campaign, the French had gain nothing and only lost men.
Here is the interesting thing about this campaign and game : in order to win, the French must concentrate Hoche with Pichegru. However, Hoche must also cover his own line of communications. That can mean to wait for reinforcements or take a risk. For the Prussians, you need to retreat a bit to have your best divisions safe from any French attempt to crush them in detail. Also to be closer to your HQ in Kaiserslautern, quite far away. But you don't want to be too far away from the French lines of communications IOT be a permanent threat. For the Austrians, you need to keep a division in the Valley on your flank to be safe from an attempt of this side from Hoche. But you also need that division in case of a major offensive from Pichegru who could still take the edge. But as Pichegru, your resources are finite and any reinforcements will come from behind the Vosges, with Hoche. So if a path cannot be openned, your forces will be alone in the Valley of the Rhine against a strong enemy entrenched in very good positions.
The situation is far more difficult than the opening of the Italian campaign. And more difficult than most Italian campaigns led by Bonaparte.