This is the second battle happening on day 3 of the campaign and the biggest one. Several French and Austrian Corps as well as both C-in-Cs are converging on the village of Sägwell and the nearby crossroads.
At 0800 in the morning Darche’s French III Corps is arrayed in defensive positions on a small hill. Sägwell is to the left while the strategically important crossroads are to the right. Darche knows that C-in-C Gérard will arrive with the Guard later in the day to his right. He also knows that another enemy Armeekorps is on the move against him.
In the distance II Armeekorps of Austrian general Brandauer marches to battle positions. Kress will arrive with reinforcements soon to his left (which is upper right int he image). Rumors of French reinforcements are unconfirmed.
The small wooded area lining the road will be a point of conflict all day.
0900 to 1100
The French moved to occupy the woods and Sägwell. Excellent defensive positions buffered by extensive skirmishers screens. The Austrians start probing attacks.
Both side use artillery to soften up the enemy
Thick clouds of smoke billow up from the woods. Although the French are outnumbered and outgunned, skirmishers and cover seem to be enough to even the odds.
C-in-C Stroheim arrives on the field with Kress’ I Armeekorps in tow. The long line of troops make their way to the crossroads to pressure the French flank.
Having the upper hand in troops on the field Brandauer orders to take the woods and pressure the enemy. Soon Austrians are streaming through the woods with Frenchmen in flight. With his forces stretched thin Darche opts to reform his left flank on the hill but keep one regiment in Sägwell. This proves to be a vital decision, as the Austrians have to deal with the village before they can roll up the flank.
Meanwhile reports of dust clouds on the horizon arrive Stroheim. It seems that the French have more forces in the area after all and he will not have time to defeat the Freench one after another.
C-in-C Gérard and the French Guard under Daucourt arrive. They too have the crossroads in sight as a way to connect to Darche but as they aproach, Austrian troops are already deploying along the road.
The situation as seen from the French table edge. Darche is out of image to the left, Daucourt’s small but formidable reserve to the right. The Austrian road column scrambles to wheel to their left to deal with the new threat.
After hours of preparatory fire and losing the woods Darche sees Austrian columns coming in along the entire front. Fortunately, his artillery is still intact and the attackers are raked with canister fire and musket volleys. The Austrians run before they can even reach the hill and are in dire shape.
Daucourt urges his Guards forward through the screens of Austrian Grenzers. Heavy cavalry also attacks against enemy light horse with surprisingly mixed results. Still, Stroheim feels the initiative slipping as Brandauer reports mounting casualties and Kress is under pressure.
1400 and later
Gérard sees the opportunity and orders a general counter offense. Darche is quick to react and pushes his troops forward. Morale is high and the Austrians are seen retiring. Near the woods the Austrians face difficulty maneuvering and are dispersed.
Kress has to shift his forces as he sees Brandauer retiring. Meanwhile the Guard presses on like clockwork. A mere three hours after arriving Stroheim orders a general retreat.
This image has been take some time later at around 1600. The Austrian committed their last fresh troops to cover the general retreat but it is not going well. Darche’s discipline in holding back his cavalry paid off as the dragoons are now advancing next to the Guard to sweep everything in their path.
The rearguard action goes on for two more hours before it end an uncoordinated retreat. Stroheim’s army has been severely beaten.
I played out several turns of the retreat and it was brutal. We often read about commanders fighting a brilliant rearguard action and saving the army. This was not the time and place. I don’t know how close a game of Volley & Bayonet can come to reality (I suspect not that close) but I definitely experienced the challenges of extricating a broken army from the field and the effect fresh cavalry can have in this phase of the battle.
The casualty rules of the campaign were harsh after Sägwell. Maybe a bit too harsh:
Austrians: 13.000 (>30% casualties)
Several flags, battalion guns and horse artillery pieces were captured by the French as well. I will deal with the campaign implications in another post.