Monday, July 30, 2007
The Prussians Plan for victory (cough)
The Plan for the Army
According to the Prussian Orbat there were, in effect, four Divisional formations plus the detatchment of Glt Holtzendorff. These were the commands of Tauentzein, Grawert, Zeschwitz and Ruchel. With Ruchel starting the game on the march from Jena, Hohenlohe had 3 divisions to play with plus Holtzendorff. But this command was not arranged in anything like a battle order. Tauentzein and Holtzendorff were quite exposed in their positions, indeed one of Tauntzein’s brigades under GM Schonberg was simply forgotten about as he moved up and was left in laager. Grawert was some way behind the first two formations and Zeschwitz away on the right in difficult terrain.
To pull all this together was Hohenlohe’s job. In our case Hohenlohe was represented by the substantial figure of Peter Burke, an ex-Royal Artillery officer and not a Napoleonic specialist. But, that said, the dispositions, depth of table and his own mental agility led to a very fluid battle plan.
I attach here Peters map and pre-battle appreciation of the enemy. If you did not know he was retired army, the terminology is a bit of a giveaway…
MILITARY APPRECIATION – SITUATION JENA, OCTOBER 15TH
Factors • French Imperial Army is concentrating in this area but still dispersed in an arc from west of Jena to Auerstadt.
• French Imperial Army is fresh from a crushing defeat of the Austro-Russian army at Austerlitz.
• French Imperial Army has been campaigning together for years and is vastly experienced.
• French commanders are trained to ‘March to the Sound of the Guns’.
• French Imperial Army has tremendous esprit de corps at the moment.
• Forces in the Jena area are currently very short of cavalry.
• They have perfected a new form of attack, the column.
• French line soldiers are not well trained in the disciplines of fire
• The first major French reinforcements capable of reaching this area should be deployable about 10.30am.
• The closest units to our forward troops are the Divisions Gazan and Suchet plus the Imperial Guard, a little over 25,000 soldiers.
• Napoleon has a tendency to hold his Guard in reserve for the decisive moment.
• If I bring a battle on early I have a chance of defeating the enemy in detail.
• I must make maximum and use of any early advantage as the French commanders will quickly respond.
• Their current shortage of cavalry gives me an opportunity to impede any advance by forcing infantry into square.
• If my cavalry advantage is large I may be able to halt or even drive back the French advance by combined arms action.
• I must avoid infantry combat with this French army in the open where their superior morale, experience and new battle tactics could be decisive.
• Their lack of fire discipline training allows us to inflict casualties on them faster than they can reciprocate.
• I must organise to ensure I can pour the maximum fire into the French as they advance.
• I must ensure my own troops are protected from fire as much as possible to reduce casualties and preserve their morale and so maintain my rate of fire.
• Although of they have high morale, the French are not invulnerable. If I can inflict casualties early their initially deployed troops may be sufficiently shaken as to be rendered useless.
• Early Prussian success would then lead to French follow on faces having to advance through their defeated comrades.
• French deployment represents an opportunity.
• Past action indicates that Napoleon will hold the Guard in reserve.
• This offers an excellent opportunity to break his forward division early if enough fire power can be brought to bear.
• The French dispersion will give us an opportunity to concentrate at least as fast as they can.
• I must bring my forces forward as rapidly as possible to beat the French to the decisive blow.
• Our morale is good
• We lack recent combat experience
• We operate an aggressive tactical doctrine based on early engagement of the enemy.
• All my soldiers are well trained in the maintenance of good rates of fire.
• We are well equipped with lots of good artillery
• My command structure is weak with too many capable commanders committed to leading their personal units.
• The bulk of our army is east and north moving towards Auersatdt.
• Additional elements of my personal force are close to hand and can be easily concentrated.
• I have plenty of good cavalry available.
• In total I have about 45,000 soldiers available,
• I cannot use this column formation to attack with.
• I need to avoid hand-to-hand combat to reduce the effect of our lack of experience.
• I need to maximise the opportunities for fire combat both musketry and artillery.
• I must prevent my troops become aggressive and charging the enemy.
• Defending buildings and obstacles will help control my men.
• I can sweep the early French cavalry units from the field if I am aggressive with my own cavalry.
• I can form a second battle line with troops arriving on the field.
• The second battle line should support the first
• Once concentrated I must keep my force together to prevent officers losing control of their formations.
• No operations at anything below Brigade level.
• Form a grand battery as quickly as possible to maximise the effect of artillery.
• The ground forms a long finger pointing at Jena.
• To each side are fairly deep ravines that are difficult to pass through.
• Several ravines cut into the ‘finger’ reducing its width.
• A number of small villages sit on the finger, several in close proximity to each other.
• Jena is in a steep valley with a river running through it.
• Bridges over the Saale are few and far between.
• Roads run the length of the ‘finger’.
• A few roads cross it, the major one giving great transverse communication for me.
• There are some woods, most noticeably along the west end.
• The village of Closewitz has a large wood shielding its southern edge.
• Lutzeroda has a wood on its northern edge
• The road out of Jena on to the ‘finger’ is narrow and twisting, difficult to navigate.
• The Windhallen feature will allow the enemy to hide his deployment from me.
• It also gives the French a feature to concentrate artillery on.
• There is quite a lot of wide open space between the various obstacles.
• There are other roads up onto the high ground on either flank. It is not clear how well known to the French they are.
• The Dornberg feature dominates the ground between Lutzeroda and Closewitz, my front line.
• The ground in the Closewitz/Lutzeroda area allows only about 1000 metres of clear ground for formed infantry to operate in
• I need to at least screen the other roads up onto the high ground with fire.
• I must deploy at least a guard force to watch them
• The narrow road direct from Jena restricts French deployment.
• If I can stop the French breaking past Closewitz/Lutzeroda then they cannot reinforce the main force quickly.
• If they are held back, any other French force trying to reach the high ground may be vulnerable to a concerted attack on its own, opening up a chance to defeat in detail.
• I must garrison the wood in front of Closewitz with Jaegers to prevent the French getting close quickly.
• I must hold Lutzeroda with good quality troops as they are ‘bare’ to a French attack. • Artillery in Lutzeroda would have good fields of fire to the front
• Artillery in Closewitz cannot fire to the front but could enfilade troops trying to by-pass
• If I can throw the French off the high ground I will dominate them as they try and fight their way up onto the high ground.
• Dornberg could be used as an artillery location is I can sufficient guns on to it
• The 3 villages Vierzehnheiligen – Altengonna provide a basis for a strong defence line
• This line is not rooted in any other strong features and can be turned to either flank.
• Each flank of such a line will require strong cavalry support plus other forces.
• French deployment may be delayed by the shortage of bridges
• Can I disrupt their crossing of the Saale somehow?
• I would have to expend a lot of cavalry, and probably lose it
• The scattered woods may offer opportunities to hid light troops in that can be choose their moments of attack.
• They may also offer the French routes for their Light Troops to penetrate my lines.
• Hold the major woods with my Jaegers to deny them to the French
• There is insufficient ground available for the French to deploy properly.
• They may well advance with one division behind the other. Hoping to break out past the villages and constricting ground.
• Vigorously holding the front villages will constrict and restrict any French advance.
• The valley should be full of mist early in the morning at this time of year.
• The day promises to be fine otherwise
Deductions • Mist may delay French deployment through the valley of the Saale.
• Weather is not going to affect this battle.
• Until about 10/10:30 am the French commanders will not be able to move well as the valley mist and lack of familiarity with the ground will hamper their movements.
• I need to take advantage of this lack of early French reinforcement to inflict maximum damage on the front 2 formations.
Option 1: Assault the French on the heights above Jena. Advantages • Having beaten them I would then be free to defeat the remainder of the French force in detail. • Will win me glory without sharing it with the main Prussian force. Disadvantages • There are 25,000 Frenchmen holding the high ground, while I have only 8,000 available. • An attack like this will destroy my front forces without inflicting major damage on the French • It would leave me open to defeat in detail. This Option is suicidal and will be discarded
Option 2: Withdraw now before the French can engage me and pin my forces Advantages • Preserves my force • My cavalry should be able to screen me breaking free Disadvantages • My job is to pin the French so that the main Prussian force can deliver a killing blow. • The ground behind me is open and offers no reasonable place to reform for some considerable distance. • I don’t know where the French cavalry is – it might well interfere with any retreat • I would leave my King exposed as my best retreat route is north east and he is north west This option exposes my King to being outflanked and our forces to being split apart and defeated in detail. It will not be considered further
Option 3: Fight where we are holding the forward villages and forming a main battle line to their rear. Advantages • Pins the French • Does not expose the King’s flank • Allows me to blood the French forces early in the campaign • Gives the King time to exploit the French disposition while I hold them here. • The French are restricted in their deployment by the ground, preventing them from quickly exploiting the situation. Disadvantages: • I could end up fighting the whole Grand Army
Best Option: I will choose Option 3. Key features: Hold villages Avoid hand to hand combat Light troops to screen/hold woods. Artillery forward in villages Screen possible flanking routes Delaying force holds Closewitz - Lutzeroda Main battle line occupying villages Vierzehnheiligen – Altengonna Screen the flanks of the main line with cavalry Allow cavalry commanders freedom to operate to exploit the developing situation
As you can see, he thought about it. Next, what it meant for yours truly as Tauentzein…