After their beating on 16 June the Prussians continued their slow retreat overnight, the French remained encamped on the field of glory and the Anglo-Dutch Army welcomed more reinforcements as they marched in.
6am – At the dawn of a hot day the Prussians and French rallied what units they could; I Prussian Corps remained demoralised.
7am – The French Commanders and the centre of their army continued to recover from their exertions of the day before. D’Erlon gathered his Corps together and waited for orders. Soult decided to pursue the Prussians with his cavalry and keep them under observation. On the opposite flank Milhaud also moved his heavy cavalry forward.
8am – Blücher received a despatch from Wellington to say he planned to attack the French opposite him at dawn. The Prussians continued to reorganise their forces. Grouchy’s rest was rudely interrupted by the thunder of guns and the shouts of men as the Allies poured out of their positions and hit II Corps all along the line.
NLG Grand Campaign 17 June 7am – Wellington attacks!
9am – The day warmed up and Napoleon and Ney, alerted by the sounds of battle to the west, both stirred. Napoleon sent Ney orders to take V and III Corps and IV Cavalry and pursue the Prussians, not allowing them to join with the English. He sent orders to the rest of his army to march towards Quatre Bras. Over near the crossroads II Corps was struggling, 5 and 9 Divisions were routed and the Corps demoralised. Grouchy and 6 Division held out in the Bois de la Hutte; as the French left was pushed back Reille was wounded, leaving the Corps temporarily leaderless. The Prussians finished rallying their men and the cavalry pushed back Soult’s scouts. Wellington was slightly unnerved to receive a despatch from Blücher saying if he was attacked in force he would have to pull back towards Guilleme; if not he would hold his position and advance in support of Wellington’s attack if he could.
[Fully reorganised Blücher had - I Corps 24 SP, II Corps 52 SP; III Corps 30 SP; 106 SP in total, a lot of units were reduced and so fragile. Ney was pursuing with 52 SP, Napoleon was taking the other 141 French SP to deal with Wellington’s 137 SP. I did the maths after I had issued the orders. So 193 French v 243 Allies; Napoleon outnumbered by 20% already and 32 SP of Anglo-Allied and 58 SP Prussian reinforcements arriving today. This may not end well...].
10am – The Prussians shake out into a defensive line from the villages of Hauters, occupied by I Corps to St Gery where II Corps is, II Corps take the centre. The French are still sorting themselves out, the Guard trailing behind the main army. Grouchy escapes from encirclement, but on the left flank Frasne falls and the II Corps cavalry are ridden down.
11am- A lull in the fighting; Ney and Napoleon move up; Wellington prepares a defensive line on his left, from Thilt and along the upper Dyle stream, with the Cavalry Corps in the open ground south of the Bois de la Hutte.
12noon – The day cools and the weather becomes fair. Foy take command of the remains of II Corps. Napoleon moves the Heavy Cavalry corps and the Guard cavalry across to his left.
NLG Grand Campaign 17 June noon – The French lines form
1pm – Napoleon order I, II and IV Corps to attack the English. The attacks are mostly thrown back; 2 Division of I Corps, attacked by 2nd Netherland Division from Thilt is saved by covering fire from its divisional artillery. The British Guards and II Corps engage in a bitter fight in the woods, Byng’s Brigade is shattered. Schoeffer’s Brigade and IV Corps artillery are shattered attacking what proves to be a very superior British force in the woods. Suffering from the heat of the day and a sleepless night Napoleon is indisposed for the next three hours.
2pm - Napoleon asks Soult’s deputy, de Mouthion to contact the Corps officers [Net result Napoleon’s Command Rating of three reduced by two and increased by one]. The French attack with disastrous results. Attacking across the stream 14 Division of IV Corps and 4 of I are routed, demoralising the former. Seeing 13 Division of IV Corps too far forward the British and Brunswickers attack forward and rout it. IV Corps is now shattered and has lost so many men permanently it will not rally fully. On the right flank British light cavalry circle round Lefebvre-Desnouëttes light cavalry and as Fraser’s artillery occupy them to their front destroy them from the rear. As the French approach Blücher prepares a Grand Battery to receive them.
3pm – With British cavalry threatening to descend into his rear and get among his supply trains Napoleon decides to fall to the Wagnee-Ligny line. Kellerman and the Guard cavalry push back the British cavalry around Mellet, but are themselves caught in the rear and routed. Following his orders Ney attacks the Prussian left flank, driving back I Corps from its village defence line.
4pm – At Melioreux Dupeyroux’s Brigade of II Corps is isolated and routed by the Prussians, demoralising the Corp. Ney receives Napoleon’s order to retire as VI Corps suffers from the Prussian batteries. In what is now becoming the centre of the battlefield the Dutch Divisions advance.
5pm – Napoleon, shaking of his lethargy, orders the whole of the left wing back, sending all cavalry to the left to fend off the British. Ney’s wing also falls back. The Allies follow up very slowly, not wanting to risk a sudden loss. Bülow’s Corps is now arriving behind the Prussian left wing, several brigades having taken a more southerly route to the battlefield.
NLG Grand Campaign 17 June 5pm – The French retreat
6pm – A fine shroud of rain falls, veiling the French retreat. French III Corps lags behind and the Prussians surround and destroy the Corps cavalry. II Prussian cavalry attack two French artillery regiments; the artillery fight back with canister and although one is overrun it destroys Thümen’s already weakened cavalry brigade.
7pm – The second IV Corps French battery is overrun. The retreat continues. By nightfall the French are back along the Ligny stream. The retreat will continue – the effectiveness of the Allied pursuit is a matter of history [or with a clear French defeat I didn’t fancy planning a pursuit/retirement for the 18 June].
VP – French Allies
Losses Guard 4 SP I Prussian 3 SP
I Corps 7 SP II Prussian 3 SP
II Corps 25 SP 1 British 9 SP
III Corps 10 SP
IV Corps 24 SP
III C Corps 10 SP
TOTAL 80 SP 15 SP
0 VP 13 VP
Demoralisation 2 VP 14 VP
Cards -7 VP -6 VP
Total 0 VP 21 VP - Strategic Allied Victory for June 17
Running total 36 VP 64 VP - Tactical Allied Victory for the campaign.
Final losses in SP were French – 97; Prussian – 35; Anglo-Dutch – 5 (taking no account of units which might have been rallied on the 18th).
So over quicker than I believed it might have been (and a good thing too as my wife was due back the next day; dog walking and other stuff having taken up more of my time than I thought it might).
From the French point of view what went right and wrong? Putting a Corps at Marbais was I think, a good move, I had not realised until the Prussians began to fall back that his flanked the Ligny position making it untenable. The delay in getting the Guard and III Corps up cost time, and an all-out assault sooner may have led to time to pursue the Prussians. At Quatre Bras with the early Anglo-Dutch build up one Corps was insufficient; the idea of Wellington being able to envelope it only came to me having looked at the map for a while. Wellington’s Cavalry Corps is a powerful force once it arrives, lots of light cavalry to sweep round the French flanks and nibble them to death. Even with a more historical build up one French Corps at Quatre Bras is vulnerable by 17 June; but if you have sent I Corps to Marbais where are the reinforcements coming from? Of course if you have enveloped and destroyed the Prussians this is less of a problem.
I have always thought the French have a tough job, having to defeat one army without taking too many losses so they can defeat a second. And any split of the French Corps between the two enemy armies leaves the other just too weak for an easy victory. Perhaps send I and II Corps to hold the Prussians, the rest up the Brussels road to eat up Wellington’s men piecemeal; by 18 June be able to swing the Guard and a Corps into the Prussian rear – assuming by now the four Prussian Corps are not in Charleroi! Defiantly worth playing again, even in my game there were several ‘what ifs’ and things could have been different. Maybe next year …
An epic AAR - great read. Many thanks for taking the time to post this. Can't wait for the next instalment...
"Only two things are infinite; the universe and human stupidity....
....and I'm not certain about the universe." Albert Einstein
Very enjoyable, near enough a game to the original Napoleon's Last Battles quad to follow I think.
Still mulling over getting the Last Gamble. I suspect I won't bother, as I still enjoy the original and whilst I know NLG will be better I don't know if it is a 'must have'.