So Bautzen Day Of Battle was cleared away. Could I fit the Bautzen and Königswratha maps on my table? Just. So it was time for the mini campaign. Set up as for Königswratha plus the Bautzen Approach to Battle.
Bautzen Mini Campaign Setup
Mode cards saw the French IV Corps (middle of the photo) started in Road Mode, XII Corps was bounced to the bottom of the Bautzen map and the Russian II Cavalry Corps off map. None of this made any difference in the long run as the French troops around Bautzen spent 19 May waiting for the Emperor and the Guard; the Coalition got out its spades, built improved positions and shuffled a few units to better improve command cohesion.
At Königswratha the Russians dropped like a bolt from the blue on the unsuspecting Italians from IV Corps. St Andrea’s Brigade fled over the causeway to safety, Martel’s Brigade held out in the chateau for a couple of hours; but by 4pm it was all over and the Italians shattered. Barcley began to shift his men north, exchanging artillery fire with the French across the carp ponds and inflicting casualties on St Andrea’s men.
5pm Italian wiped out
To the north Laurison’s V Corps clashed with Yorck’s Prussians around Weissig. The Prussians were forced off the Eichberg and around 7:15pm the French stormed the town. Yorck was hit in the leg by a musket ball cutting an artery; he was carried out of the town but bled to death. The Prussians retook the town, but were driven out again, as Radetsky’s Grenadiers arrived to shore up their left flank.
The French lost 9 SP, the Coalition 2 SP. With the Coalition holding Königswratha and Hermsdorf Day One ended in a Coalition Strategic Victory.
Steinmetz took command of the Prussian II Corps and the Coalition forces were ordered to march through the night to Malschwitz, a mile or so north of the Krekwitz Heights. The long columns of Russians and Prussians were followed by the longer column of Ney with III Corps. The rallied Italians were ordered to re-join Bertrand and IV Corps on the Spree. Lauriston’s V Corps was very slow to move off, and let III Corps pass through the bottleneck of Milcket ahead of it. The French never quite caught up with the Russians, slowed by the Cossacks burning every trestle they crossed.
Barclay’s original orders were to send the Prussians south to the main Coalition position and hold the French along the Gleina line. Wittgenstein, reading Barclay’s despatch about the action on the 19th, realised the French forces in pursuit him were too strong and would overwhelm the Russians. Riding north he countermanded the pull back and ordered II Prussian Corps to hold Malschwitz while the Russians would hold the stream between the two small lakes. By nightfall on 20 May the Prussians had settled in around the village, the Advance Guard, Reserve and III Russian Corps held the stream west of Brösa while Langeron’s men covered the bridge to the north. The Advance Guard of Bülow’s IV Corps was arriving, this was to be the reserve. The French III Corps was just beginning to cross the Spree, with half of the divisions still marching along the road. Lauriston’s V Corps was well to the rear, having spent more time bivouacking than marching.
20 May dawn around Bautzen
To the south Napoleon ordered the Spree to be crossed - IV Corps in the Nimmschütz area, VI north and XI south of Bautzen and XII at Grubschütz.
IV forced its way across the Spree, pushing back Kleist’s III weak Prussian Corps. But as three hours of rain showers swept across the battlefield Blücher led I Corps off the Krekwitz Heights and fell on the French flank; driving 12/IV back across the Spree at Nimmschütz. Bertrand quickly fell back before this superior force; as the weather cleared the Prussian artillery battered his men across the river, until Bertrand pulled them back out of range. It was not until events further south threatened the Prussian left flank that Blücher and I Corps returned to their craggy fastness and Kleist’s men fell back to make a link between them and the Russians, bivouacking around at Litten. Blücher’s intervention meant by nightfall IV Corps had only, cautiously, crept over the river and camped on the Kiefen Berg.
In the south Oudinot and XII Corps steadily pushed back the Russian cavalry screen, by 2pm they were approaching Grunditz. Marmont and VI Corps were slow off the mark, but by 10am 22/VI was across the Spree and the stream to the north of the town. However, they were held by the Russians in the chateau and then routed. To the south McDonald and XI corps also crossed the river and took the entrenchment on the hill south of the town. Seeing the distinct possibility of an encirclement Eugen pulled his II Corps out of the town and heads south to join IV Corps around Rieschen.
Napoleon and the Guard arrived; the latter were delayed entering Bautzen by repairs to the bridges. Marmont’s VI Corps occupied the area to the north of the town – this was the threat that made Kleist and Blücher pull back. XI Corps headed towards Jenkwitz while XII Corps finally found some real opposition when Miloradovich and IV Corps held the French up for three hours in fighting round the chateau and entrenchments at Jesswitz, a fight the French win before nightfall.
20 May 7pm
For the next day Napoleon orders V and VII Corps – far to Ney’s rear - to march to his aid. They are to drive through the Russians and push towards Hockkirk. IV will hold the centre. Once Ney is heading south-west XI with Guard artillery support will storm the entrenchments while XI Corps drives through Jenkwitz and XII covers the right flank.
For the Coalition Barclay’s Russians and II Prussians will delay Ney as long as they can. If opportunity allows Blücher’s men will again threaten the French center flank. The Russian Imperial Guard will hold the centre; I Corps Jenkwitz and II and IV the south.
As with the previous day 21 May was a battle of two halves. Ney’s Corps artillery pushed the Russians back from the stream but were delayed in repairing the trestle over it. The Tsar chose this moment to order Wittgenstein to bring II and IV Prussian Corps south; Wittgenstein eventually persuaded him otherwise, but was distracted from his command responsibilities.
Crossing the stream the French found themselves in a storm of artillery fire. 10 Division is driven back with losses, the other two divisions initially push back their opponents, but the Russian grenadiers drove the 11 Division back; the 9 Division clung on as men were cut down by the artillery. Steinmetz then lead II Prussian out to attack the French flank, at the village of Salga. French artillery drove their initial assault back. III Corps tries to cross the stream again, but the Russian artillery makes any advance difficult, although at one point the smoke is so intense that 9 Corps is able to push forward under its cover. [that turn every Russian artillery roll was a 1 or 2!].
21 May III Corps final advance (note the artillery smoke!)
The Russians and Prussians now drive forward. 11 Division too far forward is routed; 9 Division just survives with secure flanks. The Russian Grenadiers push over the stream, the Prussians from the south and Ney and his artillery are isolated. Artillery prevent 10 Division closing with the Advance Guard; French artillery fire allows 9 Division to repulse the Advance Guard at the point of the bayonet [a Supressed result reduced the AG’s initiative]. But the Prussian cavalry swung across the Spree, destroyed the III Corps baggage train and then re-crossed the river to threaten the French rear.
With cavalry in their rear most of III Corps collapsed; Ney is hit in the left leg, carried across the Spree wounded and out of action, as is his Corps. Reynier’s VII Corps arrived just in time to hold Klix. To the north V corps began pushing across the stream as the artillery from both sides took a heavy toll on the opposing forces. Despite heroic efforts V Corps is eventually driven back; most of 17 Division being cut down by artillery fire. Reynier and Lauriston agree - they cannot cross the river here and by now (3pm) it is too late to march south past the marshes to support IV Corps.
21 May 3pm in the north – stalemate in the swamps
Napoleon has waited until noon for the northern advance to have an effect. Hearing reports from Ney that he is held up at noon the Emperor orders the attack, across pontoons laid across the Blossauer Wasser.
On the southern flank Oudinot, Eugen and Miloradovich fought a private war around Rieschen. At 3pm the French drove back the Russians and seized the town. The Russians recaptured it, only to be evicted again. Eventually, around 6pm, the Russians take and hold the town and Oudinot’s men fall back.
At Jenkwizt the 36 Division of XI successfully assaults across a burnt trestle and into the fortified town. 35 Divison to the north is driven back by artillery fire from the north of the town and Meunier’s Brigade, already weakened by artillery losses, crumbles under the weight of metal fired at it. Unsupported 36 Division is evicted from Jenkwitz. French artillery fire in turn drives the Russians out of the northern part of the town and 35 Division retakes the southern section. On the flank of XI Corps Simmer’s Brigade crosses the stream to occupy the village of Zieschütz, only to be driven back by artillery fire. Twice more the Russians retake the town only to see the French drive them out. Finally around 4pm a combination of massed artillery and determined bayonet work saw the French finally evicted; XI Corps had suffered badly and was effectively out of action.
21 May 2pm – the fight for Jenkwitz
In the centre at 2pm VI Corps, supported by the Guard artillery advance and drive the Russian Guard from the redoubts on the hill east of Neiderkarna. But the Russians fight back, the southern redoubt is taken and IV Corps driven back from the Littern stream. The Young Guard twice attacks the redoubt on the Zieschutz hill, but both assaults fail. More importantly Blücher and I Corps again descend from the Kerkwitz Heights, this time to fall on the weak flank of IV Corps – composed of the battered Italian Division and the Corps cavalry. The Italians manage to hold the initial assault. Latour leads I Cavalry in a charge on the Prussian heavy cavalry; the French heavies are repulsed, but the Prussians are so disorganised that French light cavalry manage to drive them back.
Blücher sends most of his Corps artillery across the Blossauer Wasser where it bombards the flanks of IV and XI Corps. Marmont’s VI Corps is now engaged in its battle for the redoubts so cannot pull back. The southern redoubt is retaken, eliminating the II Russian Guard Udom Brigade. But Jagow’s Prussian Brigade drives the Wurtenburger Infantry back from the northern redoubt, routing them. On the Kiefen Berg the Italians hold on; but IV Corps is now demoralised.
21 May 3pm – the battle in the centre
Part of the Old Guard artillery battery is blasted away by massed Russian guns. To shore up his flank Napoleon is forced to commit the Guard against the Prussian I Corps. A Guard cavalry charge is driven off by Zeithen’s Brigade, which then holds the Old Guard off at the point of the bayonet. At 6pm a thunderstorm breaks over the battlefield – bad news for infantry, good for cavalry. Zeithen’s Brigade is overcome by the Guard, Lefebvre-Desnouettes and his cavalry overrun I Corps Russian artillery, and the Guard pushes back the Prussians. Seeing his Corps in trouble Blücher pulls his men back again, but there job has been done; as night falls the French attack has completely stalled.
21 May 7pm – the battle ends.
A few days later Metternich arrives at Imperial HQ – to tell Napoleon that, however much he throws his hat on the floor, the Austrians are giving notice they are declaring war on him unless he sues for peace. With the Grand Army at the end of a very long and exposed supply line the end of the French empire looms.
In total the French lost 117 SP to the Coalition loss of 26 SP. III, IV and XI Corps were particularly battered. 15 French and 7 Coalition units were also reduced by the end of the battle – mostly from shock or artillery combat. Adding everything up, plus the VP from previous days the Coalition had a massive 114 VP to the French 19 – an absolute Coalition Strategic Victory.
I did enjoy that, and it was not at all what I expected from playing the Day of Battle. That was played without the new artillery rules; they sure made a difference here. It was not all one sided; the French have some powerful artillery, but the Coalition has more. Deciding to hold Ney’s men forward was the key decision. He could have waited for V Corps to come up to provide a flank guard – but even then getting across the stream was proving very difficult. And time was pressing. The other key point was the Prussian I Corps attack on Day 3 – it completely unhinged the French attack on the redoubts and sucked resources, including the Guard, north. At some point I shall try the Day of Battle with the artillery reaction fire rules; now while I wait for Napoleon Retreats I am off back to my very first TLNB game; La Partie. But for the moment, all hail the Queen of the Battlefield -
Queen of the Battle – the Russian artillery
Great replay Andrew. what a radically different result than our game... nice to see!
Gabriel Gonzalez Pavón
Very impressive AAR indeed (as always with your AAR reports :-), THANK YOU VERY MUCH and CONGRATULATIONS!
I concur with your analysis about the maybe too exposed forward positions for some French Corps, and see Russian artillery as possibly too powerful vs historical performance, but not at all "wrong" in its impact.
I have too limited experience with this Approach to battle scenario / mini campaign to offer any inteligent alternatives, as I see it very well played by both sides considering order of arrival of forces...
Thanks for this great AAR!