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Subject: Great Battle for a Russian City Part II & Finale rss

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Prawn King
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The 17th August dawned with the promise of hot weather and indeed hot comfort and a fate as yet unknown, heralded by our own cannonade bellowing out across the unflinching assaulting Frenchmen. From my position alongside Barclay we could see riders from Grouchy’s cavalry trying vainly to pass through the cobbled streets of Krasnoye, the scene of so much grief for the French the day before. Even bolstered by what seemed like an endless army of infantry comrades, no dent in our defences could be made. Then, to our consternation, around midday a breach was made at the gates of the mighty bastion of Korolevskiy. That admirable hero Marshall Ney had himself led a regiment of Davouts eternal Corps to storm and breach the battlements. Whilst this news was barely received I caught a glimpse of blue French and Wurtemburg uniforms in the fields and meadows to the east of the city, in the bend of the Dnepr. What despair befell me when I realised we were doomed should the French manage to cross the river and surround us. But it was not to be, by the grace of our holy saviour, the gallant Platov had arrived with his thousands strong Cossack cavalry. Soon the attackers were sent fleeing to the south again and our rear and flank were returned to a sense of normality. Alas no succour could however be found as the city itself erupted from within as floods of blue coats formed a tumultuous sea flowing through the narrow streets and over the cobbles that together formed mother Russia’s third greatest city. Here, between the walls and in the rooms, no cannon could be brought to bear, a mans span being the range at which we fought. Ferociously, and without quarter, went the battle inside the city walls. Cries would go up the likes of “Gather around me men” or “Here, advance with me”, and “Press forward men, we are all in this together” as the gallant commanders, famous amongst them the likes of Lebedev, Aleksandrov, Laptov, rallied and exhorted their grimy sweating men ever forwards into the enemy. All to little avail however, as our numbers dwindled, and fresh French hordes entered the city. Ground was lost, a tavern here, or a candle factory there, a stables, a hostel. Back our valiant fighters were pushed, towards the Dnepr and the last bastion on the city’s north bank of the river.


The day wore on. In late afternoon we were surrounded by the Rechevka gate in the eastern wall. It was at the very moment of the brave Lebedev militia’s undoing. Surrounded on all sides and at bay to the cries of “Vive l’Emperour”, Lebedev and his comrades could not have found better fate, fighting to the last and heroes all, in the midst of overwhelming tide. Upon their demise a veritable wall of Frenchmen pushed towards our strangled den. For life itself Barclay and I dashed aloft, up around stairs to roofs of red baked tiles and here we clutched a perilous existence for nigh an hour as all was swept by under us. Thereafter we emerged to view in awe the city before us now, a Dante like sight of gory shambles.



Outside the mighty stone walls of the “enceinte” no easy battle raged either, in all its melancholy wonder. Cavalry charged and came to grievous injury on the bayonets of the French Guard. Here, canon fired at longer ranges and ranks and files were easier maintained in at least some fashion of parade like splendour, the sun without shade danced and glinted off the teeming rows of polished metal. Manoeuvres were assembled and enacted as period battle ebbed and flowed. Told eagerly to us later, a drama had unfolded as Napoleon himself, on his white charger, had been seen to the south of the city. Osterman had not paused for a second and sent a daring attack forward to change our history and seize the very being at the cause of all our grief. Try as they might, the brave Russian infantrymen could not reach him however and they were repulsed back across the summer fields and gullies outside the suburb of Nikolski.



Such a countryside adventure was however contrasted sharply by the timbers, tiles and mason work strewn in no fashion over the green and blue clad dead, laid silent at every corner in the Smolensk environs, their dark blood gathering in pools in the grey and dusty cobbles. To further confound mans senses, after all this tumultuous cataclysm, the death filled drama still would no end take. Indeed at this very moment of seeming lives twilight, our hearts were suddenly uplifted by cries in Russian tongue of “The Guards,” and “Konstantin is here”, which, between Barclay and myself, led to near tear filled emotion. Battle heightened yet again in the cities northern citadel and suburbs. Then as evening arrived we were joined by a bedraggled Osterman contrasted at his side by the form of the newly arrived Tuchkov, his corps complete and impressive, at last arrived to deliver us our victory. Then, to deflate the accompanying elation arrived with these reinforcements, did we not then witness with our very own eyes, Napoleon himself amongst the centre of his infantry in the very centre of Smolensk! Our very last hopes but soon put to flight as yet another attack was prosecuted relentlessly by the French. This time led by their Emperor they cast out all afore them, and an exodus from all of Smolensk south of the river took place, through gate and port, the wounded left trampled asunder in the most distressing scenes I have witnessed. So with this Barclay and myself found ourselves outside the fortress on its eastern side, Tuchkov broken by our side, his whole division dashed asunder and strewn over end in heaps around us.
Far over to the West, a mile from the city, unfolded a further act, seemingly made only to underline wars futility. Under our very eyes the bold French dashed forth and unfolded a pontoon bridge across the river. In the teeth of our canon they proceeded to make efforts to cross to the North bank, a move, if successful, which could jeopardise the entire city and with it the empire. Prodigal by far was the French tactician who could have been responsible, as their brave soldiers were dashed to pieces by the blast and wrench of musket shot and canon ball. Although a few French boots touched the opposite bank no force could withstand the withering fire from the Russian defenders, their ranks now filled with Bagrations men. As the shadows grew long their courage waned and no more French attacks followed over their devilish homemade bridge.



Daylight dwindling was however not to mark our end nor that of the battle. In an act that no ancient Greek could have penned, our salvation was at hand. Firstly did we witness the conversion of Bagration and his army. From trudging mass of shameful betrayers, to suddenly an unshackled flow of comrades in arms, their leader having somehow heeded the plight of those of us in our darkest hour. The whole event was made manifest in the shape of the bear like Borozhdin entering the city at the head of his VIII Corps, to bolster our flagging hopes. But was it not too late. Were we not already cast out and riven asunder? Were we to be the defeated on this day, and left to history in the forlorn ranks of the vanquished? In answer to this event however, and to bring us to the very brink of what seemed to be our fate, the French, led personally from the front by their Emperor, mounted their ultimate assault on the last vestige of the bastion of Smolensk.



No man could explain where from their valour could be brought, as days had passed since first they had stormed into the sacred city fortress. But still they came, a last and final claim to victory as the August day became burnished amber across the sky. Thus, in a scene the likes of which few men will ever live to see, and bade on by their own ensigns, battle cries and smoke filled volleys, did they swell as one across the Dnepr, at the bridge of Vorota. Long and loud crashed the opposing volleys from Udom and Konstantins stalwart Guards on the north bank. Asunder were the gallant French torn, as row and row at first were halted and then gradually wavered and repulsed in the face of the unwavering Russian musketry. The tide on the bridge turned. The mass recoiled, leaving sombre payment behind them, just as Barclay’s words had predicted many hours before. The French fell back upon themselves and a tremor was sent all through the city. The sight of which beckoned the question what of their courageous, leader? A cry went up, “Victory is ours! We are delivered!” The guns fell silent. Men stood upright once again, taking in what lay before them, enduring the new emotion of victory, or at least the overwhelming sense of relief that follows when something very painful suddenly ends. We were delivered. The enemy were beaten. Our lives were saved and we would live on, perhaps only days or weeks, but we had prevailed for now and this deadly threat was at last behind us.


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Andrew Hobley
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Wow, down to the last die roll! Taking Smolensk is a very bloody business; you did well do dupe the Poles away to the west as they would have been a great help to the French. Well illustrated and written, thank you.
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Gabriel Gonzalez Pavón
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Great Battle for a Russian City Part II & Finale
...Even more Epic, if possible, than its first part!. (Playing) games like this are the ones we remember more, maybe the reason why we play. Reliving history first person makes it even better.

Once more, thank you and congratulations!
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