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Thoughts of a worried Austrian
On the face of it I felt rather doomed. We had just spent twenty minutes listening to our individual assignments which would make up the allied plan for Austerlitz. To say that I was a little stunned by my role was something of an understatement. I had asked to play the allied Advance Guard of FML Kienmayer, it has often been said of me that inside this Cuirassier’s body there is a Hussar struggling to get out (in my view it is two Hussars but there we are), and by requesting Kienmayer I was playing to type.
I was a more substantial figure than my command...
I looked ‘Kutusov’ in the eye and said: “Let me get this straight: I am to demonstrate across the Goldbach stream, but if the French start draining off troops to the centre I am to attack them in order to pin them, if they attack over the Goldbach I am to hold them, and you want to take away most of my cavalry as well?”
“Yes” was his equally straightforward response.
I was justifiably anxious about this. I had not played with the Liphook guys before and had not used the rules before. What I was aware of was the need to follow whatever orders you are given. Generally the hope by a subordinate is that the CinC knows what he wants to achieve and relies upon you to do your bit in order to make it come together: rather like an orchestral score. It is rare that a CinC has a team that allows him to play Jazz. Having been a CinC in several large wargames I knew that there was nothing more infuriating than a subordinate tearing up his orders and doing his own thing, I hoped that I would not be equally infuriating for my boss at Austerlitz.
On to the Goldbach
So we transferred to the split table. There were rules for advancing in fog and I waited for this to lift before I sent some cavalry off to the centre, but I only decided to send one brigade, mostly Cossacks, and then see what I could spare later. In the meantime the allied army ponderously rolled forward towards the French defensive line assumed to be along the Goldbach. Historically my position had not changed: I was still deployed on the allied extreme left opposite the village of Tellnitz up to the Sokolnitz area: here the 3 Russian assault columns were supposed to break the back of the Grande Armee.
After flitting up to the Goldbach the French did not seem inclined to attack me. They had garrisoned Tellnitz but I was not tasked to take it so the village was screened instead. What puzzled me, and did so increasingly, was the strength of French forces before me: Five infantry battalions, some cavalry and a couple of guns. If I had been tasked to go over the stream then it would have easily stopped me: instead I just lined up my troops and sat there. So did the French. This was fine by me so I sent the bulk of my guns to support the Russian assault against Sokolnitz and Sokolnitz castle.
The Russian assault columns against these two targets were commanded by some very young players. I moved my figure up to them and suggested they check the fordability of the Goldbach. The positive answer from the umpire allowed them to assault on a much greater frontage and, although disordered, they pushed on. It also earned me looks of undying hatred from the French player opposite. So, as my doughty 3-pounders did little damage but made us all feel good, the Russians kept grinding on with the occasional exhortation from me to ‘get stuck in’. Although the French were in a strong position, and the rules meant that units did not have to take a morale test if defending cover, they eventually broke through.
Exploiting the breach
The French in front of my little command still amounted to five battalions of infantry, six units of cavalry and a battery of guns. I was happy enough as they could have been reinforcing Sokolnitz. In a small concession they had abandoned Tellnitz, so my lads occupied it, and I began to think about feeding cavalry through Sokolnitz to cross the stream undisrupted.
The Russians meanwhile had begun to roll up the French in the Pheasant Garden opposing the column of Pryzbyszewski, played by a fellow member of my club. The French, for their part, tried to seal off Sokolnitz to stop Russian advances out of it. But it was clear that the French attempts to hold the Goldbach had crumbled.
It was no better for them in the centre. They had handed the initiative to the allies here too and the Pratzen was now bristling with Russian and Austrian guns as well as Kollowrat’s whitecoats and the Russian Imperial Guard. A French division that should have gone up the Pratzen was diverted towards Sokolnitz to hold the three Russian columns, only to be taken in the flank by Uvarov’s cavalry and blown apart by the guns.
With the fall of Tellnitz, Sokolnitz and Sokolnitz castle the French began to draw back. I threw my remaining cavalry brigade across the stream here with light infantry and the dreaded 3lb guns whilst my larger cavalry brigade crossed at Sokolnitz. A cavalry melee developed but the allied horsemen established a comfortable superiority over their French counterparts, and behind them the guns and Grenz deployed.
The destruction of the Grande Armee
It was at this point that lines of communication became important. The French army had now, in effect been cut into three separate parts, with the allies splitting the French along the Schlapanitz and Kobelnitz axes. It was the French troops south of Kobelnitz that were in trouble: fatally they had abandoned their LoC, a road leading back to the rear, and I took my chance and cut it: soon cavalry, horse guns and light troops barred the way. All French troops in this particular pocket were adjudicated by the umpires to have surrendered: it amounted to at least a third, if not more, of the French army.
The allied plan was brutally simple and it worked. In my opinion the French lacked aggression and flexibility and surrendered initiative to the allies with fatal consequences. An initial lunge at the Pratzen, even by some light cavalry, could have contested it enough to prevent the allies establishing themselves on it. To quote the allied CinC: “Actually, by the 10th move when the Allied Centre had settled into its defensive line with massive gun batteries and no French attack forthcoming, defeat for the French was inevitable.” What I could not understand was the heavy weighting of troops against me that could have been used to reinforce Sokolnitz and Sokolnitz castle. By the time they did swing troops over it was far too late: any assessment would have seen my command as no real threat and a couple of cavalry brigades would have screened me off just as well. In our sector, as was the case along the allied line, it all went disturbingly according to plan: Weyrother should have been so lucky in real life.