Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Retreat from Waterloo

We had another Black Powder game last Saturday, and even with the hot day had a good turnout of players. Steve, Mark and I commanded the French, while Ken, Chris and John commanded the allied army (Dutch, Prussian and British).

Rearguard at Quatre Bras, June 19th 1815
The Allies flush with success after Waterloo charged off after the defeated French. A hodgepodge Allied forces caught up with the French just north of Quatre Bras. If they could defeat the French before nightfall, their triumph would be complete. Napoleon still stinging from yesterdays defeat, placed 7th Division (unengaged at Wavre), along with some stragglers, at Quatre Bras to hold off the allied pursuit. If they could hold the allies for a day, he knew he could rally and regroup the Armee du Nord.

Allied Command
To:  Lt General Chasse
From: Lt. General Wellington,
With good haste, take your command and harry Napoleon's army all the way to Paris! Yesterday we have inflicted a great defeat upon him, and it would be a shame to let the scoundrel return to France and create up a new army. Smash his rearguard and complete our victory.
General Wellington, Commanding
Allied Pursuit Command
  LG Chasse (3rd DB Division)
Dutch/Belgian Brigade:
  MG d'Aubreme with 5 battalions
German Brigade:
  MG Saxe-Weimar with 3 battalions
British Brigade:
  MG Sir Pack with 3 battalions
Prussian Contingent:
  GM von Pirch-II with 5 battalions, 1 regt
Light Cavalry Brigade:
  MG Sir Vandeleur with 2 regiments
French Command
To:  General of Division Girard
From:  Général de corps Reille
Napoleon has entrusted the defense of the army to us. You’ll take your yet engage division and stop any blimey pursuit. You are authorized to use any and all stragglers you come across. In addition, the Emperor has released the last two battalions of Old Guard to us as an indication of the importance of your task. Do not let us down.
General Reille, II Corps
 Rear Guard Commander
   GdD Baron Girard (7th Division)
1st Brigade:
  GdB de Villiers with 4 battalions
2nd Brigade:
  GdB Piat with 5 battalions
2nd Division (Remnants):
  GdB Aulard with 4 battalions
Light Cavalry Brigade:
  GdB Wathiez with 2 regiments
Guard Brigade:
  GdD Roguet with 3 battalions

Setup and Objectives
The French set up, from left to right, 4 battalions from the 2nd division, 1st brigade in and around Quatre Bras, Light Cavalry on the right flank. 2nd Brigade was in the center and made up are reserves, as were we not sure when or if the Old Guard would actually show. The French had to hold Quatre Bras for the rest of the day (15 turns).

The Allies set up from right to left, Dutch brigade, German brigade and light cavalry brigade. The Prussian contingent moved onto the battlefield left center. The British brigade was held in reserve off table and would arrive later in the day. The Allies had to defeat the French before nightfall (15 turns).

The Battle
Both sides found it difficult to move early in the battle, and while the French were mostly already in position, it was difficult to reposition troops to face the oncoming allied forces. And by difficult, I really mean, that most of us failed our command rolls for the first few turns!

On the left flank I finally moved the light battalion forward; and along with the light company deployed in the woods, engaged the Dutch Militia in long range musketry fire … with little effect. John commanding the Dutch was having a harder time advancing than I was, so little happened the first few turns.

Mark in the center was able to move a couple of battalions to the left of Quatre Bras and help fill in the gap against the advancing Germans. They battled for several turns before the French began to whittle down the Germans. This was helped out significantly by Steve, who using the French cavalry, not only kept the allied cavalry in check, had the lancers charge several German battalions, even breaking a poorly formed square!

Alas, as usual, the advantage the French had gained was soon gone. The Dutch finally got the word to advance and threw themselves at the remnants of the 2nd Division. Who at first held, but the tired Frenchmen soon collapsed, and all but one shaken battalion fled the field. Mark tried to cover the empty space with his last two battalions, but the French left was still woefully unprotected.

In addition, the French cavalry on the right, just plain got worn out from charging all day; and they too retired from the field. Also the Prussians had arrived and gingerly advanced to engage the two French battalions holding the right side of Quatre Bras. At this point, the French were stretched pretty thin, and even though the Germans in the center would play no more part in the battle, the allies looked ready to break the French army. Especially as the newly arrived British brigade, with a battalion of highlanders, promptly marched straight for Quatre Bras.

Just as GdD Girard thought his command was about to panic, GdD Roguet and the Old Guard arrived onto the battlefield! A battalion of middle guard, supported a battery of guard artillery moved to stabilize the right flank, while a battalion of Old Guard rapidly marched to the extreme French left and stopped any Dutch turning action. The last battalion of old guard marched around the left side of Quatre Bras in a position to support the left or center.

GdD Roguet spying through his glass, saw that the 42nd Highlanders were preparing to assault Quatre Bras, and sensing that the moment of crisis was at hand, personally took charge of the 1st battalion Grenadier of Pied. He formed them up in column of attack and marched straight into the six hundred muskets of the highlanders.

The clash was heard all across the battlefield, the highlanders fired off one volley and counter charged the grim faced grenadiers who kept on advancing. The melee that ensued was short and bloody … for the highlanders. They were crushed by the tide of grenadiers and immediately broke and fled the field; this panicked the supporting 44th Foot, who in turn followed the feeling skirts of the highlanders! The sudden rout of the British brigade broke the morale of the Allied army, leaving Lieutenant General Chasse no option but to order a general retreat.

The OG attack was the last attack of the game, and they did indeed crush the highlanders, winning 8 to 1 for the combat resolution, and inflicting five hits on the highlanders. We got about ten turns in and all seemed to fun with the game/scenario … of course several of us talked about bringing more old guard battalions to the next game!

We used most of our house rules and except for the two new players, all seemed to be getting pretty comfortable with the rules on cavalry charging infantry. We tried several of the rules from Albion Triumphant 2, and were not impressed, especially the rule on Deep Cavalry. If used again, we will change it, something like drop the +1 command and increase the number of HtH dice lost to two.

The Dutch, in particular the Militia, did very well … which may have been because John did not notice that they were Morale 5+, not 4+ and Mark had no idea that charging units received +1 to hit. Both of which might have changed several of the outcomes on the French left.

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