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Fleurus 1794» Forums » Sessions

Subject: History repeating itself before it happens – Mont St Jean rss

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Andrew Hobley
United Kingdom
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On to the final scenario of Fleurus. The scenario covers two days. The Allies have fallen back and, unlike historically, decide to make a stand at the strong position of Mont St Jean. The scenario opens at noon on day one with the French Advance Guard having located the Coalition, the rest of the army coming up and Coburg covering all options with his dispersed forces.

Mont St Jean setup

As before Victory point locations marked in red. Looking at the setup I feel like a Schoolmaster with a room of dozing pupils and I want to shout ‘Concentrate Boys, Concentrate!”.

The early afternoon sees everyone hurrying to Mont St Jean. At 3pm the French Centre column attacks Plancenoit off the march and takes it, an Austrian counter-attack fails. The Advance Guard takes Hougoumont and as the French Reserve comes up it is launched into an attack on the Coalition centre, taking La Haye Sainte. An Austrian counter attack made some gains in the rear of the farm, but the Dutch were unable to evict the French from the farm and the unsupported Austrians were eliminated.

Reinforcements had arrived for the Coalition – the Austrian II Column and Coburg from the east, the Dutch left wing from the north; and the VI Austrian column from the west. The Austrian II Column had moved to Ottignies, to the east, to cover the Allied supply lines to the north-east [and the VP locations there]. Even though the key Coalition defensive points had fallen to his forces Jourdan was worried by the number of the enemy and the risks to his flanks if he advanced. Away to the east Beaulieu was leading the Austrian V Column across country to the battlefield aiming to cross the Dyle at Limelette. He was paralleled a few miles to the south by Marceau and the French right wing near Mont-St-Guibert. And to the north the Hanoverians were marching through the Forest of Soignes [the latter being Alternate Reinforcements].

The armies settled down for the night. Both sides had spent 7 VP in cards, but the Coalition, with seven leaders in towns or chateau offset this; the French could only manage to get three leaders undercover. The Allies held 25 VP’s worth of locations; the French 5.

Evening day one.

The second day started with a French attack on their right. The Austrian II Column held out and the battle flowed back and forward before Plancenoit. For the Coalition the Hanoverians came into line in the centre, allowing the Dutch to move to the Allied right. At 9am the Coalition launched an attack on the weak French left wing, while the Hanoverians began to batter, unsuccessfully, at the gates of La Haye Sainte. The Coalition forces pushed the French flank back, Hougomont holding out as the hinge in the French line.

Jourdan decided to try and break though the Allied IV Column with a cavalry charge, which would allow him to isolate the Coalition left wing and threaten the centre. The result was mixed; Kienmayer’s Austrian cavalry and Richard’s French dragoons broke and fled, Lerivant’s cavalry forced the Austrian infantry into square, but the follow up infantry attack came to hand to hand combat; although isolated the Austrians held and the French cavalry were broken. Further infantry attacks supported by artillery broke the Austrian square, but the French were thrown back from Papelotte Chateau. The Hanoverian's took La Haye after a hand to hand struggle and on the French left, despite a heroic resistance by Suzleman’s cavalry isolated on a hilltop, the flank was being pushed in. Although the Austrian IV Column had been reduced and demoralised Beaulieu’s men were on the way to fill the gap and even worse the British were arriving in the Coalition centre.

Away to the east Quasdanovich’s Austrians and Marceau’s French had been fighting a private war on the lower Dyle. Marceau’s march took his men across the Austrian front. Their cavalry took the French column’s baggage, but Marceau marched on for another two hours before reacting [March Order to the battlefield and then failed the initiative roll to break this]. He then launched his men across the stream between the chateaus of de Palate and de la Mothe and in a fight notable for a lack of Austrian movement managed to demoralise Quasdanovich’s men.

10 am - French success in the balance.

Despite the risks Jourdan pushed the attack on the right, forcing the Austrians back, badly wounding Archduke Charles, and storming La Haye. On their right Coalition launched their own cavalry charge, backed up by Austrian infantry, but the cavalry were routed and the infantry driven back. And in the centre La Haye Sainte changed hands again. The Austrian III Column having pulled back around noon Jourdan launched an attack on Smohain to try and break them, but the assault was pushed back. With La Haye Sainte taken the British advanced into the French centre, but were driven back.

Noon - French high water

Faced with threats on both flanks Jourdan decided on a general retreat. But the Coalition was too close for him to break contact. Austrian cavalry pushed round his left, the units around Plancenoit failed to fall back and by 4pm as the line collapsed the few French survivors were running south. Kleber was killed, Lebebvre fatally wounded and Soult was hit, but survived.

4pm - Every man for himself

It was little consolation for Jourdan a month later, as his tumbrel rattled towards the Place de la Révolution, to hear that Archduke Charles had died of his wounds. For Republican generals learning from failure was not an option.

So a total disaster for the French and a Coalition Strategic victory; losses were 89 SP although it was not a one sided fight as the Coalition lost 58 SP. If the Coalition reinforcements had not arrived, especially the Hanoverians and the British, Jourdan may have succeeded. In retrospect the French should have launched the cavalry attack earlier before the Austrian V Column was so close, that may have helped eliminate the Austrian left and then turn to deal with the centre. In conclusion a hard fight at Mont St Jean, but a French rout after unexpected reinforcements arrive. Where have I heard this before?

I have yet to play the campaign game – that may happen this May when I will have some more space to easily deploy two and a half maps. But having played the three scenarios this game is well with playing again. Two results balanced on a knife edge and a third that, had fortune gone differently, might have been. The Coalition Alternative Reinforcement can be a big game changer if they arrive early enough. One could always play without them, but that may handicap the Coalition too much in the first two scenarios. As a whole well worth replaying and with a different feel from the later Napoleonic battles, even the smaller ones.
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