On to Lützen; the first major battle of the Spring 1813 campaign and one which begins with that rare thigs – Napoleon surprised. The French were marching to concentrate around Leipzig, assuming the Allies were somewhere ahead of them. But the French lack of cavalry meant a lack of scouting and the Coalition army lay to the south-east (the map itself has north-west at the top). Wittgenstein decided to attack Ney’s III Corps, bivouacked around four villages and unsuspecting of what awaited them.
The battlefield itself has the major river of the White Elster (which the Coalition has crossed) cutting off the bottom right corner of the map. The main battlefield lies between two streams – the Grünebach running north to the Saal and the Floβgraben which runs top to bottom roughly across the centre of the battlefield. Between them lie the five key villages – Starsiedel, Kaja, Rahna and Groβ and Klein Görschen, with a major hill to the south. As the map rather gets covered with units here is the key terrain -
Lützen – the villages
The eponymous town itself lies to the north, on a further stream, the Mühlbach. And to give you an idea of how the size of armies had ballooned the 1632 battle of Lützen basically took place north of the town in the gap between the Floβgraben and the Mühlbach.
As to the setup for the French the Imperial Guard lies south-east of Lützen; Marmont and VI Corps are on the road to Starsiedel, III Corps is scattered leaderless around the villages (Ney himself has ridden off to towards Leipzig) and of to the south Bertrand and the advance guard of IV Corps are approaching. The rest of the French army is off map to the north, en route to Leipzig.
The Coalition lurks in a great mass on the ridge east of the villages. Blücher with his monster I Corps and Berg’s Russian I Corps lies a few hundred yards from Groβ Görschen and Rahna, Eugen’s II Russian Corps on the left wing with Yorck’s II Prussian’s and Tormassov with the Russian Guard in V Corps as reserve. Worth noting that as Blücher is an Officer-Commander, and the Russians add Gortchakov, Wittgenstein and Wintzingerode as Commanders then having a Coalition formation out of command due to bad initiative rolls (as opposed to out of command range) is very unlikely.
In my replay there were two changes due to play of mode cards – the Russian Guard was in road mode and so spread out and 11 Division of the French III Corps was moved from between Kaja and Lützen to north-east of the town. And so to battle as the Coalition attacks at noon. Incidentally this is one of the few scenarios in the series where the Coalition is the first player.
The initial Coalition attack overran the Görschen villages and Rahna, the III Corps units being overwhelmed. Kaja fell, only to be retaken by the French as the Coalition right wing failed to move up [out of command range]. The French reaction was slow, Marmont marching to hold Starsidel; Ney rushing back to hurry up the 11th Division and Napoleon the Guard. The French 9 Division held out in Kaja, resisting all attempts to evict them for some hours.
Lützen - the initial assult
By 3pm Eugen’s I Corps had pushed the French right back from Közen isolating III Corps’ 10 Division in Starsidel. Despite a heavy artillery bombardment IV Corp 20 Division held to support the III Corps defence of the village from the Russian Guard attacks. Rosen’s Brigade of the Russian Guard was isolated and eliminated, but the Coalition pressure told. A second Coalition attack was led by a charge of the Russian Guard cavalry on 20 Division, which routed them and 10 Division was overrun by the Russian Guard infantry; Starsidel falling around 5:30pm.
Lützen 4pm Kaja falls and Starsidel is under threat
On the opposite flank the Prussians had come up slowly, working through the marsh and swamps to the north of Kaja. Dolf’s Prussian heavy cavalry charges the French 11 Division and overran them, with their flank protection stripped away the 9 division in Kaja was finally routed. The whole French left flank had collapsed. With no option Napoleon sent in the Young to Kaja and and the Old Guard to Starsidel. The Young Guard was driven back by the Prussian levies, while the Old Guard met its match in the Russian Guard, being repulsed, demoralising IV Corps.
What of the virtually unprotected Coalition rear? Bertrand’s IV Corps took some time to concentrate. He then advanced very slowly, concerned first by the Cossack screen to his front then, to the arrival in his rear of Miloradovitch’s IV Russian Corps. As the afternoon wore the Russians started rolling his corps up from the rear; only towards the end of the day did Bertrand react and snap back, eliminating two brigades and demoralising the Russian Corps. By then the Prussian II Corps had formed a welcoming committee along the Grünebach.
To the north Eugène led MacDonald’s XI Corps and Latour’s cavalry towards the exposed Coalition rear at Kitzen. Not willing to risk attacking piecemeal it was not until 7pm Eugène attacked. By then Berg’s I Russian Corp was in place, supported by the Prussian cavalry led by Blücher himself. The French attacks made little gains; the Russians in Kitzen held out and Latour’s cavalry were attacked and driven back by Russian and Prussian cavalry.
By 7pm the Russian Guards had again repulsed the Old Guard from Starsidel, Russian artillery was pounding the French lines (taking off the arm of Walther, Commander of the Guard Cavalry) the rallied remnants of III Corps were beginning to form on the French left and Oudinot’s XII Corps was shoring up the line on the right. But with III and IV Corps demoralised Napoleon’s forces were in no state to attack. At 8pm Wittgenstein persuaded the Tsar the threat to the Coalition rear meant a withdrawal was needed, and behind a cavalry screen the victorious Russians and Prussians began to pull back.
Lützen - 8pm the victorious Coalition slowly pulls back
The Coalition had 36 SP in the ‘dead’ pile at the end of the game; the French 88 SP. With the French occupying none of the VP locations it was a crushing -4 VP (due to cards) to +42 VP Coalition Strategic Victory. Even if the Coalition pulls back east the French army is badly damaged. What will the diplomatic effect of a major defeat be on the French allies - and more importantly the Austrians? Prussia can hold her head high with the shame of Jena wiped out.
That ended up being a most unexpected victory. In retrospect the Coalition were helped by Bertand’s dilatory approach and command problems on the first couple of turns – if III Corps could have moved a rapid pullback may have help in the long term. It also helped reading rereading Michael Leggiere’s ‘Napoleon and the Struggle for Germany, Vol 1’ while looking at the game map. His comments about the Coalition’s cavalry and artillery superiority were very helpful hints; I have mentioned the lack of decent French horse. This scenario certainly needs a reply – especially as my result was so contrary to history. But first on to a warm up for a monster – Königswratha before playing Bautzen.