Big Bloody Scharnhorst – Day 4 Battle of Bolkhov

While the Russians suffered a major defeat at Inask (orange frame) there was also an even larger battle raging to the north at the same time. This is the story of the battle of Bolkhov (blue frame).

The six sectors translated to the following tabletop after additional terrain placements and deployment. Note, the battlefield is rotated 90° counter clockwise. North is to the left in the image below. Every unit shown on the map is a division. Prussians are dark blue, French are light blue, Russians are green.

I have been tinkering with these maps. They are just a rough draft. Tell me if you find these helpful to follow the battle.

Both sides faced several challenges on this battlefield. The French had fewer numbers but a good defensive position if they managed to block all three bridges over the Msta river (impassible). As the Prussian contingent started on the wrong side of the river and the French center was only occupied by the cavalry reserve, it was not a given to achieve.

The Russians could just sit on their side of the river and defend as well. Their position would probably be even stronger but they had superior numbers and limited time before their flank at Inask would be rolled up towards Bolkhov. Their strategic position felt a tad like Waterloo from Napoleon’s perspective here. A strong force to attack with on a battlefield with limited space and the clock is against you.

Initial Orders

I wrote two sets of orders, one offensive, one defensive for both sides divisions and let the dice decide. These orders could be changed during the game but the basic mindset (offensive/defensive) would be a principle factor for order changes.

The French and their allies decided on defensive orders:
-Von Steuben (left flank): Cross the Msta and defend south of it.
-Collin (center, cavalry only): Stay in reserve.
-Merle (right flank): Defend the hill in the southwest.
-Lessard (right flank): Defend the central bridge.

The Russians decided to attack:
-Koltsov & Vorodnin (right flank): Attack the enemy in front of you.
-Medhorovsky (center): Stay in reserve.
-Nosov (center): Advance and cross the Msta.
-Davydov: Cross the Msta and take the hill in the southwest.

So the Russians plan to cross a river with superior forces to crush the French. Suddenly I get a whiff of Friedland…

Early Morning

The stage is set. French have the initiative but let us watch the action from the Russian side first, as they are the attackers.

Davydov arrays his men to cross the Msta near Bolkhov. Their crossing will be unopposed as Merle on the other side has orders to hold its position. Merle doesn’t even have artillery to harass the Russians.

In the center, Nosov sends his Cossacks in first to scout and is slow to reorganize his men for the crossing. On the far side you can see the bulk of Lessard’s division marching up to the river to oppose Nosov.

On the Russian right flank the battle starts in earnest. Koltsov sends swarms of Hussars to harass the Prussians. Zimin is repulsed by Hülse’s Prussian Cuirassiers while Polunin sneaks around the flank to attack infantry in march column. He is repulsed as well. This wouldn’t be a believable result in small scale games, where cavalry will eat march columns for breakfast but here it is. ~3000 bayonets won’t be ridden down by light cavalry in just one attack. Hasty squares will be formed, everything gets in terrible disarray (disordered) and men will die but eventually the Hussars don’t have the numbers or stamina for a prolonged attack and retire. Yellow markers are disorder markers.

Vorodnin brings up his infantry but is slow to do so. Even with the Hussar attack going on von Steuben might have enough time to cross the Msta to the save side.

Lessard gets his men to the center quickly and Plante starts to engage with artillery support. Enemy Cossacks and infantry are held in check on the far side of the river.

Von Steuben (center of the image) gets his infantry over the Msta while Hülse’s cavalry beats back repeated charges from Hussars. This is only possible by emergency unlimbering his substantial artillery assets to canister the Russian cavalrymen. Ammo reserves are further up the column and which turns out to be problematic.

Morning

Concerned about the huge number of Russian infantry crossing near Bolkhov on the French right flank, the French activate Courcelle’s heavy cavalry from the reserve to offer flanking support.

Meanwhile Merle’s infantry opens up with telling volleys. Return fire is effective as well, as the Russians have heavy artillery support from across the river.

A similar situation develops in the center with Lessard’s troops stopping the Russian advance with help from horse artillery of Collin’s reserve.

Pressure on the French allies mounts on the right flank. Hülse’s Cuirassiers are beating back enemy Hussars for hours now.

Midday

By midday von Steuben already received a slew of confusing orders from the French commander. As the C-in-C of the whole theatre is not present, the French commander is rash and micro managing. Luckily the bad orders don’t arrive in time and the good orders do. Meanwhile an order from the Russian command reaches Nosov with some delay. He is ordered to cease his advance in the center and hold his side of the river bank.

After the first unsuccessful attempt to cross the Msta he is happy to oblige and arrays his troops at the river bank. This is a strong defensive position but his men are bad shots and lack artillery support. They are quickly out of ammunition as well.

Merle and Davydov are fighting over the hill on the French right. French cavalry from the reserve is held in check by Pugin’s infantry in square (further back center in the image). Abramov and Bychkov have trouble to advance against thick clouds of French skirmishers.

Hülse is pressured to retire and Prussian artillery unlimbers again in an desperate attempt to keep the advancing Russians in check. At least von Steuben’s infantry forces are now in position to defend the bridge.

Early Afternoon

by now the frontlines are mostly drawn and the battle gets into its attritional phase.

Davydov’s brigades charge uphill but are repulsed.

Nosov and Lessard fight along the river bank. The French are gaining the upper hand.

Hülse rallies his men and sends them forward again to repel the enemy. Under the cover of his cavalry von Steuben can finally get his artillery over the Msta. The Russians are hampered by traffic jams and poor command.

Another attack goes in near Bolkhov and this time the losses are horrendous on both sides. Russian morale is still high though. Coudert’s brigade lining the hill becomes spent. Is this the end of the French right flank? French command thinks so and orders Lessard to extend his line to link up with Merle.

The order arrives but fighting troops are difficult to shift. Combat ebbs though, as the Russians retire with mounting losses. Behind Nosov (right side in the image), Medhorovsky is ordered to leave his reserve positions and prepare for a road march towards the Russian left flank. The intention is to support Davydov but the lead column is slow to move.

Von Steuben finally gets all his forces safely to the French side of the Msta. His infantry lines the river banks. A strong defensive position but he is outnumbered quite a bit.

Afternoon

As the line infantry retires on the French right flank, the entire Russian reserve is ordered to support Davydov.

Here is Medhorovsky whipping his march columns into shape. Nosov retired further back as telling artillery fire dispersed his cossacks. Farther in the back on the left you can see Plante’s brigade from Lessard’s division moving to support Merle.

Vorodin and Koltsov throw their forces into the fray as an order arrives to be aggressive. Casualties begin to mount on both sides.

Late Afternoon

Once moving Plante wedges his brigade efficiently between the other French forces and begins to push the Russians back. Pugin’s men face severe ammo shortages which makes it difficult to hold the ground.

Just as Lessard sent his biggest brigade away to support Merle another order arrives: Counterattack! With artillery reshuffling and nearly half his infantry not in place he launches the attack. For what its worth it is well executed and leaves Bogdanov’s brigade spent and bloodied. Nosov manages to threaten the flank with Kravchuk.

The tragedy about this can’t be seen in this picture. Just right of the image Medhorovsky’s reserve troops are still on orders to march away. The order to turn and support Nosov are late! Half of Medhorovsky’s men march away from the failing center while one of his brigades bumbles about, unsure which way to turn.

What started as a running battle for the Prussians now becomes a painful grind. At least Hülse’s Helden (heroes), as they are already called, have been pulled back in reserve and can get some desperately needed rest.

As darkness begins to fall a hodgepodge of troops from three French divisions shore up the French right flank against Davydov. The Russians are finished though. Losses, low supplies and constant threat from cavalry makes it impossible to take the hill before nightfall.

In the center Saindon and Verieur of Lessard’s division have crossed the Msta in a counter attack. Saindon managed to advance as far as the road and clashed with Modhorovsky’s bumbling brigade but they held the advance in check. With the Russian reserve streaming back the counter attack would probably be beaten back in time but French achieved their goal to cause losses and confusion.

Primakov breaks and Essen suffered heavy losses against concentrated Prussian artillery from across the Msta. Vorodnin and Koltsov still have more men but a breakthrough before nightfall is not possible.

Final positions after turn 10.

Aftermath

After ten hours of fighting the battle of Bolkhov ends. It is time to rally the survivors, tally the losses and decide the winner.

The French and Prussians rallied one infantry stand and chalk up 5 infantry lost. I was quite surprised as the Russians mounted so much pressure that losses felt higher.

The Russians rallied several stand back but still lost 11 infantry, 2 cavalry and one artillery is reduced.

Looking at the battlefield the French achieved their goals while the Russians didn’t. Both flanks are secure, albeit with a lot of help for Merle. The center delivered a successful counterattack. It is not complete success though. The Russians can retreat in an orderly fashion. Only Davydov at the left flank is a bit isolated but he has heavy artillery support which makes retreat of the Msta possible. In conclusion this is a French victory.

How did it play?

To be honest, the battle was a slog to play to completion. I wanted to have a variable turn number and roll if the battle continues after turn 10 but couldn’t encourage myself to play another turn.

So what happened? Basically I tripped over myself. I placed an impassible river at the center of the campaign map, I decided to battle there and I set it up as the map told me to do it. So I ended up with a table where I essentially fought three bridge crossing mini battles (to put it negatively). Take a look at the start and end position of all forces to see how static the whole affair was.

What I probably should have done was to combine both campaign battles into one and shift the battlefield around a bit or make the river fordable. BBB and its scale lends itself well maneuvering and that’s what I limited, funneling the Russians down three lanes.

Of course this is always a risk when playing campaigns where the battleground can be chosen by the commanders. It is a powerful reminder, of an aspect that is missing in most pickup battles. A good battle ground does not necessarily make a entertaining battlefield. The same holds true with troops arriving piecemeal and at sectors you don’t want them to be. From a period flavor perspective everything worked like a charm. Many things felt like I read them somewhere. Late and confusing orders lead to decisions a general might have taken but a wargamer wouldn’t. Counterattacks, attrition, the importance of artillery support, it went the whole mile.

From a rules perspective it also was a success. All these historical aspects of the period were achieved by Blücher’s Scharnhorst system, the order system and Big Bloody Battles with Napoleonic amendments. The French are responsive in command and have powerful skirmisher screens. The Russians are tough to crack, bad at musketry but a tad better in melee. They are slow to get into gears but then they roll towards you with numbers and relentlessness.

So overall I’m happy with the result. I learned a lot for future battles and campaigns and added BBB+period amendments to my top tier rule sets. Looking back at the battle I think I will have fond memories for these parts that worked. This is why I was more thorough in this battle report 🙂

The campaign

I will address the campaign implications of this battle in another post.

Big Bloody Scharnhorst – Day 4 Battle of Inask

After a long hiatus I finished the write up of the first campaign battle. It has been fought quite a while back but it has been a tumultuous year to say the least. See my prior posts to read about the days leading up to this battle fought with the Big Bloody Battles rule and Napoleonic amendments.

The battle of Inask (a small village not depicted) is happening in the lower (orange frame) of both battles fought at day 4 of the campaign:

These six sectors translated to the following map after additional terrain placement. The river in the upper right sector is impassable except by the bridge. Further down it becomes a stream and is passable.

Reinforcements will arrive in turn 3 at the earliest but usually later and sometimes never.

Zimin deployed his Guard Cavalry on the center hill. His orders are to buy time for reinforcements to arrive. Past the stream Ménard’s Division has deployed.

Another view from Zimin to the south. Pirot’s Guard Division in the distance has been ordered to attack the hill aggressively.

At first Zimin’s Cavalry keeps the French at bay by defending the river banks.

But the extremely aggressive Pirot soon pushes back Zimin before Ilyin’s Infantry and artillery is in place. The ensuing fight at the foot of the hill is chaotic. On the lower left French Cuirassiers of Penterre fall back from a long sweeping advance that began with routing Grishkin’s Cossacks.

A view of the western front. Glazkovsky’s Guards hold back Ménard’s entire Division but they won’t hold forever.

Beretschov arrives at the earliest possible moment but has to cross the bridge to get into the fight.

The Russians barely stabilize their lines at the foot of the hill as Glazkovsky’s Guards fall back (right). More French will soon cross the river.

Faltenbach arrives in the early afternoon with his massive, unwieldy columns. This photo and the next two are shot from left to right.

On the other side of the bridge. The Russians already suffered some losses and now Kirilov’s flank is threatened by the large Austrian Division.

Ménard sends Jetté’s Lt. Dragoons into combat again and again, making the Russian reinforcement road a dangerous place. Here is Frolov’s Brigade in square. By the end of the battle Jetté charged 4-5 times. Half of those charges against superior numbers or positions.

Russian reinforcements make slow progress due to bad command and French cavalry in the vicinity.

Kirilov and Katzbach falter. Kirilov is in square but after this photo has been taken, a massed cavalry attack from Penterre’s Cuirassier Guards and Beyen’s Hussars sweep away the disordered square and exploit into Kalzbach. During all this Ilyin got wounded and Zimin got killed by a French Cavalry squadron.

Remember Frolov’s brigade defending the reinforcement road in square? It’s gone. Aggressive French skirmishers harassed the square at will. As a shot hit Frolov, the tall commander fell down dead like a tree. His men routed immediately. With this gap threatening the reinforcement route and turn after turn of devastating cavalry assaults, partly into the flank of march columns, the Russians break and quit the field.

The Aftermath

Inask was a disaster for the Russians. Their initial position seemed to be well laid out for a defensive action but the French and Austrian forces attacked too soon and too well coordinated. The Russian reinforcement corridor was quickly contested as well. Boxed into a small area with cavalry roaming around the losses were high.

Zimin fell during the battle. His Division lost the Cossacks and Popov’s Guards lost too many men to be fielded again in this campaign. Though Popov stepped up to command the Division.

Ilyin lost one heavy artillery battery and Frolov’s Infantry is way too weak to be fielded again. Katzbach and Kirilov recovered some men in their retreat but are both at 50% strength. Ilyin himself was wounded, captured then freed and wounded again. He will continue to command his troops against the hated French. As Beretschov received the blame for Inask, Ilyin is already celebrated as a hero of Russia preventing an even worse outcome.

Beretschov was lightly wounded as well and had Rechensky lose a base. The campaign forces 7 and 8 are now both under 50% strength.

On the French side losses were surprisingly light due to several rally rolls during and after battle. Only Ménard’s Division suffered permanent losses. Both Routhier and Jetté lost a base each. Corbin’s Division didn’t even show up in time to influence the battle. In terms of bases lost this battle ended with a lopsided 2 French to 12 Russian. Several Russian standards and guns have been captured as well.

Big Bloody Scharnhorst – Days 1 & 2

The campaign begins with initial orders for all forces. I wrote three sets of orders for both sides and decided randomly which one to implement. Here is the map again to follow along.

French Initial Orders

Commander Ramille issues rather careful orders:

I Corps (A, B, C): Enter from D1 and move towards Bolkhov C9. Capture if conditions are favorable. Von Steuben (G) will support north of Bolkhov.

von Steuben (G): Enter from A5 on day 2 to support I Corps (moving against Bolkhov C9) from the north.

II Corps (E, D, F): Enter from J1 and secure the crossroads at H8 and put pressure on the crossroads at E9.

Faltenbach (H): Enter from L6 on day 2. Move towards the crossroads at I11 but only to recon and probe. Fall back to II Corps at H8 if necessary.

Russian Initial Orders

Commander Kurkovik weighs his forces heavily in the direction of Bolkhov but doesn’t use the obvious attack routes. The surrounding area has to be secured first:

Column Koltsov (4, 1, 2, 3): Enter at G16 and capture Ozyorsk B11 and the northern area of Bolkhov.

Column Nosov (6, 7): Enter at A16 and defend the flank of column Koltsov south and east of Bolkhov.

Column Zimin (8, 5): Enter at J16, move to Yartsevo E11 and act as reserve for forces north and west of you.

Day 1

No changes to the initial orders are made on day one. This is the overall map at the end of the day. The Flags under C and left of 1 are the respective C-in-C markers.

Day 2

With no contacts no order changes are made. The French have the first move.

French I Corps moves unopposed into Bolkhov and sends out Merle’s Division to defend the bridge south of the city at D9.

Column Koltsov meanwhile moves up to capture Ozyorsk. In passing both forces scout each other.

Von Steuben’s Prussians meanwhile close in in the north and spot only some of the forces near Ozyorsk. They are under support orders so decide to stop well ahead of the enemy.

Column Nosov moves up to Ozyosrk as well.

II Corps secures the area around H8. They fail to spot Zimin’s column near Yartsevo F11.

Column Zimin also fail to spot I Corps as they move up.

Faltenbach arrives and moves towards I11.

End of Day 2

Above you can see the frontlines forming. The French map looks pretty much the same. They only failed to spot force 5 and II Corps in the south doesn’t know of marker 8 either.

The Russian map in comparison. Only half of the french army has been spotted so far.

With the last sunlight vanishing the respective generals and staff officers meet to plot the orders for day 3.

Big Bloody Scharnhorst – Setup

This is going to be one Frankenstein of a post. My recent game of BBB (Big Bloody Battles by Chris Pringle; Blog) left me in high spirits. I’m also reading Donald Featherstone’s Solo Wargaming. The book hasn’t aged well in some regards but I constantly get new ideas while reading and that’s what counts.

So I’m starting a new campaign. Nothing on the scale of my ECW campaign, as I don’t need another huge time sink to keep me from progressing. the idea is to combine Blücher‘s (Sam Mustafa; Website) campaign system Scharnhorst with BBB as battle engine and enrich it with order writing mechanics. The basic inspiration is Napoleon’s Russian campaign near the Borodino phase. The map and forces will only very vaguely resemble the historical ones, though. The French get to field an Austrian and Prussian Division, although they are not happy to be there.

Scharnhorst has rules for a bigger, 10 day (turn) game surrounding the Waterloo campaign, which I will borrow as well. The map is four times the size of a normal campaign map and the forces involved are nearly as much as I can field miniature wise.

Around Bolkhov

This is known as the larger Bolkhov area where forces will clash. The city of Bolkhov is in C9. French enter from the left, Prussians into A5 on day 2, Austrians into L6 on day 2 as well. Russians enter from the from the right side and at least one force must use each road. The road leaving in A16 leads to Moscow.

Terrain shows only the major features. During a battle further terrain will be added to the six sectors of the battlefield.

Added Fog of War Campaign Rules

The campaign will progress as double blind game. Usually both sides can see all forces but not the contents of a force marker. Each side has eight division strength force markers. In my modification a marker can always spot enemies around it within one map sector (diagonally as well). Two sectors away it may spot enemies on a roll of 4+ on 1d6. Friendly forces can always be seen within a two sectors radius. Everything beyond can only be conveyed by orders from the C-in-C or adjacent forces. These test will be made for both sides every time a force enters a new sector.

To make matters more interesting for me I will use written orders for the campaign and all ensuing battles. On the campaign map, forces receive an order of the day at the beginning of each day which they then try to achieve during the day.

In order to model the difficulties of campaign command (around 50.000 bayonets per side alone), there can be a transmission delay. The C-in-C has its own marker on the map which has 10 movement points (normal force markers have 6). It moves after all friendly and enemy forces have moved in the day but has to end its movement within one sector of a friendly marker.

When handing out the order of the day it will arrive safely if the receiving force is two sectors away. If the force is farther away 1d6 has to be rolled. On a 1 the order is lost. Every other face indicates when the order will arrive in the force’s move. If I roll a 3 for example, the order arrives after the force spend the first three movement points that turn.

Added Battle Rules

During a BBB battle each C-in-C gets a stationary figure. Orders are written down either as instructions or as movement arrows on a map and have to be followed. They can be changed at the end of each turn on a roll of 1+ on 1d6. For every full cavalry move of distance between C-in-C and division commander add 1 to the difficulty. If the division commander is not in line of sight add 1. If the recipient is not French add 2. If the C-in-C from the map is not present add 1. If the dice roll fails, write the target number -1 on the order and roll again at the end of next turn.

The French use the Corps structure but Corps commanders are integrated into the C-in-C during battle. The Russians form impromptu columns.

Overall Goals of the Campaign

The main goal is to bring the enemy to battle in a decisive manner. Villages, towns and cities grant no points in this campaign. Unless one force is crushed in battle I will determine the winner at the end of day 10. Strategic position will play a factor but how intact one’s forces are in comparison to the enemy is the main factor.

French Forces

The allied Austrians were quite reluctant to fight their longtime allies and I classed the Fragile as well as Passive.

C-in-C Ramille

I Corps Lebeau

1st Division Lessard (Marker A)
6S Trnd Plante
4S Trnd Saindon
4S Raw Varieur
Foot Artillery

2nd Division Merle (Marker B)
6SA Trnd Condert
2SA Vet Émond

Cavalry Reserve Collin (Marker C)
2A Trnd (Dragoons) Salois
3A Trnd (Dragoons) Blanchard
3AH Trnd (Cuirassiers) Courcelle
Horse Artillery

II Corps D’Arconet

1st Division Corbin (Marker D)
4S Trnd Audibert
4S Trnd Durepos
3S2A Vet Fabien
Heavy Foot Artillery

2nd Division Ménard (Marker E)
4S Trnd Routhier
3S Vet Franchet
3L Trnd (Lt. Dragoons) Jetté

3rd (Guard Division) Pirot (Marker F)
3S Vet Minonde
3HA (Guard Cavalry) Penterre
Horse Artillery

Allied Contingents

Prussian Division von Steuben (Marker G)
5S Raw Müller
4S Trnd Wiczorek
2H Vet (Cuirassiers)
Foot Artillery
Heavy Foot Artillery

Austrian Division Faltenbach (Marker H)
4PFL Vet (Hussars) Beyen
6SPF Trnd Hain
6SPF Trnd Kaltenmaier
Foot Artillery

Russian Forces

The Russian infantry was quite difficult to command and poor at musketry but they had high morale. Therefore I gave them Passive, Ragged Volleys, no Skirmishers (apart from some Jägers) and Veteran. The Veteran status of course does model their morale, not their training.

C-in-C Kurkovik

Division Vorodnin (Marker 1)
3SP Vet Primakov
5RP Vet Esen
6RP Vet Demidov

Division Darydov (Marker 2)
6RP Vet Pugin
6RP Vet Abramaov
4RP Vet Bychkov
Heavy Foot Artillery

Division Medhorovcky (Marker 3)
3RP Vet Sakharov
3RP Vet Tarask
Foot Artillery

Division Koltsov (Marker 4)
5L Trnd (Hussars) Zimin
5L Trnd (Hussars) Polunin
Horse Artillery

Division Beretschov (Marker 5)
3RP Vet Godorschenkov
3RP Rechensky
Heavy Foot Artillery

Division Nosov (Marker 6)
6RP Vet Bogdanov
5RP Vet Kravchuk
2LA Raw (Cossacks) Loginovsky

Division Ilyin (Marker 7)
3SP Vet Frolov
4RP Vet Katzbach
4RP Vet Kirilov
Heavy Foot Artillery
Heavy Foot Artillery

Cavalry Reserve Zimin (Marker 8)
3H Vet (Guard Cavalry) Popov
3H Vet (Guard Cavalry) Clazkovsky
2LA Raw (Cossacks) Grishkin

Battle of Asendorf

I’ve been trying out several different Napoleonic rulesets lately:

  • 2×2 Napoleonics definitely was quite interesting as you can read about here.
  • Field of Glory: Napoleonics 2 is a set I want to like. I began my foray into Napoleonics with the first edition and have fond memories of the one big battle I played. The new set-up mechanic is nice. Essentially a little guessing game about who commits to an attack or defense complete with pre-battle bombardment. The rules however are unnecessarily detailed for my taste. Blücher pulls that off better with less rules in my opinion. When I try FOGN nowadays I get bored halfway through.
  • Age of Eagles: It needs a ton of bases and seems to be incredibly fiddly
  • DBN (De Bellis Napoleonicus): Tried it several times and bounced off hard. The problem is, that it plays like playing DBA, so I rather play DBA with ancients.

So I decided to get back to Blücher again with a full blown Scharnhorst campaign up front. If you want to call five days leading to a battle a campaign. Here is the map I came up with for some fictional German territory early in the Napoleonic period (early war lists)

The French entered from the left, the Prussians from the right. Several days of maneuvering brought the French forces strung along row C from Schwengen (B§) to Asendorf (C7). The Prussians saw an opening when there was a gap in the French front at C4. Prussian cavalry exploited this and battle was about to commence with half of the French forces on the march. More importantly the French cavalry reserve was cut off from the rest. See letters and numbers in the order of battle for map references of the starting positions. The battlefield was C4 to D6. The river was only crossable by two bridges.

French Order of Battle

I Corps (A on the map)
6 Ligne
1 Heavy artillery

II Corps (B)
6 Ligne
1 Heavy artillery

III Corps (D)
2 Elite Infantry
2 Ligne
2 Dragoons
1 Heavy artillery

Cavalry Reserve (C)
2 Light cavalry
2 Dragoons
1 Horse artillery

300 points

Prussian Order of Battle

I Corps (1 on the map)
2 Avant-Garde
1 Infantry
1 Light cavalry

II Corps (2)
1 Grenadiers
4 Infantry
1 Light cavalry
1 Foot artillery

Cavalry Corps (3)
4 Heavy cavarly
1 Horse artillery

IV Corps (4)
2 Grenadiers
5 Infantry

301 points

Deployment

Prussian II corps

Prussian I corps

Prussian Avant-Garde ended up as reserves. A day earlier this corps was in the center of the potential battlefield. But the French maneuver towards Asendorf shifted the corp’s position to the far left flank. Above you can see Prussian cavalry on the hill.

Opening Moves

As the Prussians have a huge numerical advantage they begin the battle with an aggressive frontal attack along the whole line.

On the left flank French artillery and musket fire is telling. The first brigade is already retreating back.

Prussian artillery has been brought up in the center. It quickly breaks a french brigade occupying the hill.

The Prussian left flank up to the river takes casualties from clouds of skirmishers and artillery.

Avant-Garde corps on the march. The Prussians figure they have to throw everything at the French to break them early.

Prussian heavy cavalry are crossing the bridge to apply pressure on the French right flank. Meanwhile the horse artillery battery on the hill provides support fire.

Early Morning

Prussian cavalry is kept in check by a long line of battalions in square. Meanwhile the Prussian attack falters and depleted brigades fall back.

Prussian traffic jam as the Avant-Garde units try to bolster the line and depleted brigades fall back.

Midday Breakthrough

The second Prussian attack brings Grenadiers and Avant-Garde brigades to bear. Although the French lines holds in most places there are two breakthroughs

Prussian fusiliers repeatedly charge and beat back the French on the far left flank. They now occupy the forest. This is crucial, as Prussian heavy cavalry are waiting to the left just outside the picture to exploit.

Meanwhile on the Prussian right flank, another unit of infantry, supported by Grenadiers push back French infantry. This is not nearly as dangerous as on the other flank, though. There are still fresh brigades in the vicinity pouring fire into the enemy exhausted from hours on the attack.

Victory is within Reach

As the French artillery runs low on ammunition, fresh Prussian troops are thrown into another aggressive attack. Here, on the Prussian right flank, Hussars charge up the hill. They quickly dispatch of the enemy and take the objective from the French. With so few French units on the field morale runs dangerously low and the battle seems lost.

The hill on the left flank is also stormed by Prussian grenadiers. The French are falling back everywhere.

“This battle is completely lost. However, there is time to win another.”

The fateful words of Desaix at the battle of Marengo hang in the afternoon air as dust clouds signal the arrival of French reinforcements. The French cavalry corps arrives in the back of the Prussian cavalry, ready to attack. Their position is not ideal, as they are far away from the faltering infantry lines. The moral boost the French receive is significant, however.

Half an hour later, French Dragoons and light cavalry crush into the Prussians at full gallop. The Prussian cavalry defends the hill and can bring more heavy cavalry to bear, though. The result is indecisive albeit bloody. The Prussians are forced to bring back their cavalry from the other side of the river. A relieve French infantry desperately needed.

Speaking of French infantry. After hours of fighting both sides have to patch up holes in their lines. The French are still holding by a thread. The Prussian cavalry unit on the hill which broke through earlier hasn’t moved for nearly an hour. It seems their horses are blown or the hill is deemed too important to leave.

Counterattack in the Afternoon

With the cavalry battle in full swing French III corps finally arrives on the other side of the river. Elite infantry, artillery and Dragoons march on the field and begin the counterattack immediately. The French general couldn’t have hoped for a better tool or time to get the situation under control.

French Dragoons charge up the hill to dislodge Prussian Hussars. The hill is under french control again, signalling a shift of initiative.

The cavalry battle on the other side of the river bogs down to costly charges and counter attacks. Both sides are blown and exhausted. The situation becomes increasingly confusing. In the back you can see Prussian staff who have been observing the situation, suddenly finding themselves in front of enemy Chevau-légers.

French reinforcements swing out on the French far left and begin to flank the Prussians. With command of the hill comes the ability to bring artillery fire to bear again. French heavy guns begin to canister with great effect.

On the French right flank up to the river things look promising as well. With the threat of Prussian cuirassiers gone and elite infantry advancing the Prussians have no choice to vacate the hill they stormed some hours ago. It is now Prussian morale cracking. The Prussians haven’t lost that many units but they have retired many of their battered brigades after the first and second attack in the morning. These are now missing to stem the tide as the evening approaches.

A Result at Dusk

The pitiful remains of the once proud French cavalry corps stream away from the battle in retreat. The Prussians broke them but at what cost. There is not much left to pursue or support the infantry any more. The deed has been done, so they say.

And indeed the French managed to pull of a second Marengo. French infantry is pressing on to the Pas de charge. The exhausted Prussians are retiring in orderly fashion and many can slip away under the cover of darkness. But there are also so many still on the field, dead or wounded.

The Strategic Situation

With their army beaten and many casualties the Prussians retreat. But the terrain makes it difficult to consolidate all the parts of the army and one day after the battle of Asendorf French forces attack the Prussians seeking shelter in Ventring, near the original battlefield. It is here where the fate of the nation will be decided. If the Prussians can keep control of Ventring for long enough the wounded and exhausted parts of the army can pull together. If not the French will be able to defeat the smaller parts of the enemy in detail.

Stay tuned for the Battle of Ventring.