Friday, July 25, 2014

Battle of Mockern Ends

We wrapped up the battle of Mockern today, and what a finish it was!  The last reinforcements to come into play were the remainder of the Bavarians; a brigade of infantry and a brigade of cavalry.  They were immediately sent towards Mockern where a single French brigade was holding on by its fingernails.  The allies were desperate to make a breakthrough, so all of their forces went on to the attack.  The two best opportunities were Mockern or in the center against the worn out brigades of French cavalry.
Bavarians try to hold the line
The first opportunity was dashed when the Prussian brigade assaulting Mockern was forced to take a brigade moral test when not one, but two officers were wounded in the fierce battles within the town.  The result was that the brigade was broken and had to withdraw.  In a display of remarkable fortitude, four French battalions, 2nd line at that, had held off nine battalions and two batteries for the entire five day game.

In the final turn of the game two fresh regiments of Prussian cavalry charged a single regiment of French cuirassiers, the last reserves in the center.  The Prussians were able to add a modifier of one in to each of their two dice rolls.  The sad result was snake eyes on the first and a three on the second.  The French player rolled a ten.  This meant that both Prussian regiments were routed and the game was clearly over with the French winning a resounding victory.
The final charge of the game
The French victory was largely the result of their aggressive game plan.  They went on the offensive in the center and on their right.  The Russians were off balance from the beginning.  They were never able to bring their superiority in guns to bear.  The French cavalry ran roughshod over the field in the middle, destroying all of the Russian cavalry and then tearing into the helpless infantry up on the ridge.

Over the course of five days 12 players maneuvered of 2,200 infantry and 600 cavalry figures as well as over 80 stands of artillery.  It was an epic battle in the truest sense.  The rules, General de Brigade, gave us a good feel for the period and the results seemed to be very realistic.  Good tactics were rewarded; poor tactics resulted in catastrophe.  But whenever you roll dice, there were still occasions when the unthinkable happened.  This gave some very memorable moments to both sides.  One that comes immediately to mind was on the last turn of the game.  Prussian infantry were trying to assault a portion of Mockern for the fifth time.  They had a 50/50 chance of winning the fight as the French battalion was quite frail due all of the previous attacks.  But a double six gave them one more victory and the Prussian Corp commander who was leading from the front was wounded as well.  This was the straw that broke the Prussian's back.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Battle of Mockern Days Three and Four

Day three saw the French build on their successes of the previous days, especially in the center.  Two divisions of the Emperor's cavalry nearly drove the allies from the field.  The Russian light cavalry was destroyed and the cuirassier brigade lost 50% of its strength.  On the French right, the Poles continued to drive back their Russian counterparts.  On the left, the French were stubbornly holding on to Mockern with one brigade and drove off the last of the Prussian cavalry with the other.

Day four began with significant reinforcement arriving for the allies.  Another Prussian infantry brigade entered on their right and a large Austrian brigade arrived on the left.  As the day wore on, the French found themselves being driven back, especially on the flanks.  The Poles retired to a ridge to form a less vulnerable defensive line there.  The allies' superiority in cannon began to turn the tide.

As the day ended it was unclear if the French players would call upon the Imperial Guard to try to turn things to their favor.  If they do employ these elite units the best they can hope for is a draw.  But it may be necessary to avoid utter defeat.

Photos from Day Three

Bavarian reinforcements arrive to aid the French in the center

French cavalry pushing back the Russian forces

A French brigade deploys on the center-right

The Poles continue to battle on the far right flank

A second Russian brigade arrives, only to be assaulted immediately by French cavalry
Photos from day four

Prussian infantry maneuvers to attack Mockern

An overview of the action

Austrians go into action

The tide turns in the favor of the allies against the Poles

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Battle of Mockern Day Two

The battle resumed with a fury today.  After yesterday's gains, the allied players were feeling quite confident.  That optimism evaporated rather quickly, however, as the French cavalry scored some major successes in the center of the table.  On the right flank, the Duchy of Warsaw division also made a remarkable comeback, forcing the Russians to withdraw across a river in order to be able to better use their artillery.

In Mockern itself, the Prussians were successful in driving the French from the out defenses but could not gain a foothold into the town itself.  The Prussian cavalry has been ground down throwing itself at the solid French squares, unable to change orders to allow them to pull back.

In the center, the Russian cavalry has taken a terrible beating.  Two full batteries, a total of 24 guns, have been lost to bold charges by the French light cavalry division.  Terrifically outnumbered, the Russians have fought bravely, but their early successes actually worked against them as they usually had to pursue any regiment they defeated.  This exposed the Russian dragoons to both artillery fire and flank charges.

The battle for Mockern

French reinforcements arrive in the center

French squares hold back the Prussian cavalry

An overview of the action

The Poles have turned things around on their flank.  The Russian guns have not made an impact here

A Russian brigade advances in the middle to take on the French reinforcements

Monday, July 21, 2014

Napoleonic Battle of Mockern

Today we began our fourth and final week of military history in miniature.  Our battle is based on the events at Mockern during the Leipzig campaign; Russians and Prussians are assaulting the French on a wide front.
We are using General de Brigade rules pretty much as written.  There are six players per side.
These are the French on the outskirts of Mockern

French light cavalry in the center of the table

Polish light cavalry on the extreme right flank

Duchy of Warsaw division on the right flank.

The initial orders issued were rather aggressive with lots of "assault" and "engage" markers assigned on the allied side.  The French were more content to move to solid defensive positions and then hunker down to weather the storm.  But one the first cannon roared, the young French generals threw caution to the wind and changed many of their orders to "assault."

The first moves of the game. Allies are to the left, French to the right.

Russians advance in the center.

French light cavalry attack Russian dragoons and hussars.  To their left and out of the picture French and Russian cuirassiers tangle with each other.
 As the first day drew to a close most of the allied attacks that went in were repulsed.  The French had occupied Mockern.  When Prussian regulars finally received orders to attack they were driven back with loss from the town's walls.  Prussian cavalry supported this attack on the left, but they were also thrown back by solid French squares.  The Poles, however, on the French right were being roughly handled by the effective volleys of the Russian infantry (lots of rolls of nine or higher.)  In the last action of the day, the Polish horse were able to drive off a brigade of cossacks.

The Poles have managed to seize the high ground, but they are outnumbered and terrifically outgunned.

Friday, July 18, 2014

SYW Mega Battle

This week my military history class staged an epic SYW battle that saw over 1,200 figures grapple over a a 5X12 foot table for five days.  On one side were the Austrians and their French allies.  Their task was to halt an invasion into Austrian territory.  The invaders were comprised of  Prussians and Hanoverians.  12 players and two wonderful aides pushed the miniature battalions and batteries into the fight.  Each player started with a brigade of either infantry or cavalry.  By the end of the week, about 14 additional brigades found their way to the table as reinforcements.  We used the Die Kriegskunst rules, and they served us well.  Below are some pictures and a brief account of the battle.

Day One:
The table before guns start blazing.  Austrians and allies are on the right, Prussians and Hanoverians on the left.

Hanoverian cavalry awaiting orders.

A combined brigade of Hessians on the left flank.

The Austrians, though with a defensive posture, aggressively attacked a strategic hill.

On the Austrian left flank, Prussian cavalry made life very difficult for an Austrian brigade trying to defend an important village.

Large Austrian force that spent most of the battle marching instead of fighting.  Young commanders struggled with decisiveness for most of the week.
At the end of day one the Prussians were making significant gains on their right, but found the going much more difficult on their left.

Day two:
Hanoverians attack in the center.

This village on the Prussian left was a key objective.  Both sides wrestled for it for the entire game.  At this point, half is occupied by Prussians and half by Austrians.

A major cavalry action was fought on this road.  The two woods forced both sides to fight in very constricted formations in a piecemeal fashion.

Bavarian reinforcements arrive on the Austrian left flank.
Day three:
The battle swayed back and forth all week on this, the left flank, of the Prussian attack.

A look down the table from the Prussian left.  The kids playing were amazing. Some were as young as nine years old, but they were totally engaged in the game and at no time lost interest.  Very impressive!
Day four:
The Prussians had applied pressure all along the line but had not really gained an advantage.  But on this day they had shifted a large proportion of their forces to their right and destroyed the Bavarian brigade that had entered there.  The Austrian left flank was in grave danger.  But help was on the way.
The Austrians tenaciously hang on to the village on their left flank.

The French have driven out some Hanoverians from this village on their extreme right flank.

A lone brigade of French infantry is all that stands between three Prussian brigades gaining the highly sought after breakthrough.

Day five:
The young generals arrived to find the last reinforcements had arrived.  Each received an infantry brigade and a cavalry brigade.
The two fresh cavalry brigades crashed into each other hoping to secure the middle of the battlefield for their respective sides.  The Austrians suffered from Prussian artillery fire  coming from the hill to their right.

Three fresh regiments of Prussian hussars swept down the hill into the lone French brigade which had wisely deployed into squares.  Despite suffering sever casualties, the men in light gray stemmed the tide and kept the Prussians at bey.
It was determined that the Austrians had prevailed in this epic contest, but only at great cost.  It was clear to all that if the contest had continued for even one more day that the Prussians would have broken the Austrian defenses in at least two places.  But they didn't in the time permitted, so the young Austrians celebrated a hard-won victory.  All of the participants were great sports and, most importantly, were sorry to see the week end.  They had a GREAT time.

Friday, July 11, 2014

2nd ACW Battle, Fictional

In the battle for the sunken road at Antietam, the north won a very costly decision.  They broke through the Confederate defenses, but at the cost of over 4,000 casualties.

My aide and I set up another battle, similar to the first, but this time the rebs wouldn't have the fortified positions they had previously.  All the figures were placed on the table at the beginning and the battlefield was about three feet longer.  We will wrap things up today, but it is going to be tough for the Union to pull out a victory.  In the center, an unsupported attack has been battered back.  Three of the Union's eight brigades are spent and three more are pretty much used up.  On the other hand, two brigades have hardly been engaged at all.  It will be up to them to try to find a weak spot in the rebel line before time runs out.
The high water mark of the Union assault, capturing the church and crossroads.  But this is to be a short-lived gain.

Meagher's brigade is able to pierce the Confederate defenses, but with no brigades in support this is surely not a permanent breach in the line.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

VIP Week Two: Antietam's Sunken Road

Week Two features a recreation of the vicious battle of Antietam, fought back in September of 1862.  D.H. Hill's division, with support from Ewell's division, were given the task to hold a sunken farm road that was an naturally fortified position.  The Union II Corps had the unenviable job of making the attack.  This corp was made up primarily of men seeing combat for the very first time.  What a baptism of fire awaited them!

Our game had 12 players, 6 Union and 6 Confederate.  For most of the participants this was their first wargame experience.

Hays' Brigade in reserve in the West Woods

Early's Brigade on the extreme left flank of the Rebel line

Looking north from Sharpsburg

The Union masses ready to attack

The Irish Brigade on the Union left.
Things did not go well for the Yankees from the very start.  A veteran player commanded the Confederate left flank, Early's brigade, and audaciously attacked the Union right flank.  This took the starch out of the Union attack almost immediately.  Scores of blue clad stands were lost with very little expense to the men from Virginia.
Hill's men poised to receive the attackers

In go the men in blue

Casualty stands reveal the severity of the Confederate musketry

To the left of this, long lines of men in brand new blue uniforms marched over a small ridge and into the range of Hill's excellent infantrymen.  The rookie soldiers were literally blown away.  The only bright spot the Yankees was the performance of their artillery.  They were able to blow away Hill's outgunned batteries. 
The apple orchard provided insufficient cover for Hill's guns.
On the Union left things looked much more promising as the most veteran Union division launched an attack there, led by the vaunted Irish brigade.  But the rebel commander on this end of the field, our only female player incidentally, was more than up to the task.  Though by day's end the gray line was battered, it had not broken.  The Irish brigade commander had been mortally wounded, and all but one assault turned back with heavy loss.
The sunken road is seemingly impregnable

Rebel reinforcements arrive just in time to stall a formidable Union attack
We will fight out the conclusion of the battle tomorrow with a post to follow.  A third Union division has arrived, Early's brigade has been driven back with heavy losses, and the rebel left has been stripped of reserves to fend of the threat on the right.  The outcome of this battle is still very much up in the air!