Sunday, December 27, 2009

Some Austrian Units

Before I start describing the run-up to Aspern-Essling I want to put out a bit of eye-candy. I realise that I did pictures of all the units of IV Kolonne previously as they were completed, but that leaves the boys of V Kolonne to do. So first off I decided to do the two cavalry regiments I have not covered previously.

HusR3 ‘Erzherzog Ferdinand Carl d’Este’

Like HusR10 ‘Stipiscz’ in IV Kolonne, HusR3 was a pretty standard regiment of Hussars and is a typical product of the Habsburg army. Although the material was excellent, and the horseflesh itself did not suffer as much over time as that of the heavies, the Austrian cavalry suffered from two principal defects: poor leadership and issues of co-ordination. The senior ranks of cavalry regiments were often filled by socially senior people but these were not usually the most adept or capable. Like other Habsburg regiments, if you want experienced officers you need to look to the Majors, rather than Lt Colonels, Rittmeister or Colonels. Hussar regiments were, and still are, fashionable, and offered considerable scope for small acts of bravery in the ‘Kleiner Krieg’ that was their forte, and in this respect their activities as scouts, conducting ambushes and undertaking raids was always a key element in the Hussar’s makeup.

The Inhaber, Erzherzog Ferdinand D’Este, was not considered a particularly nice person. Quarrie describes him as a ‘brutal and vulgar bully’, and his military talents seem rather minimal. Still, it is quite unfair to be that judgemental due to his performance in 1805, where he was pretty much a figurehead commander and his breakout from Ulm seems to have stemmed from exasperation with Mack’s apparent listlessness. His activity on 1809 is hardly open to too great a critique either. His invasion of Poland with VII Korps went ok, and he did pretty much what was expected of him, defeating the Poles at Raszyn. Again, the peripheral attacks of the Austrians went right, but the main theatre went wrong, and that was where the war was due to be won. D’Este himself was, of course, landless. The D’Este family had been denuded of all their Italian possessions (in his case Modena) so he was kicking his heels in Vienna like lots of his cousins and looking for a role. He does not seem to have held an active command in 1813-14, that war being the preserve of professional generals, not scions of the Imperial house.

ChlR6 ‘Rosenberg-Orsini’

The 6th Chevaulegers were originally a Dragoon regiment, then became a Light Dragoon Regiment and, finally, Chevauleger. The whole Chevauleger concept grew out of trying to create a ‘German’ light cavalry arm. Something a little more disciplined than the Hussars was certainly a good idea in the mid-18th Century and the arm became the favoured branch of Joseph II, who is often pictured wearing the green coat of the Chevauleger. Oddly many of the units grew gradually from Cuirassier regiments, who during the late 18th century often had a ‘Division’ of Chevauleger as part of the regiment. Others were converted towards the end of the SYW or later from Dragoons: DR1, DR7, DR13, DR19 and DR31 were all converted in this way. The only regiment started as chevauleger was ChlR18, which in itself grew out of DR31 before it, too, was converted to chevauleger.

Carneville Freicorps

Although I had done a previous post on Carneville’s Freicorps when I had painted up the infantry, here is a pic that includes a couple of Hussars and the man himself; Simon Graf Carneville. I had puzzled over what on earth this unit could be used for at 1:50 other than looking pretty. Tom Burke, playing Rosenberg, puzzled over this too. In the end I settled on the notion of ‘supports’. The charm for this unit about ‘Art of Command’ rules is that any unit of any size can be counted as a support. What is unarguable is that they turned out well and look pretty...


Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Victory Despatch of Archduke John

My dear brother

Today the Army of Inner Austria struck the first blow against French tyranny. In battle against the Italian and French forces under the Viceroy of Italy our brave regiments proved that the French can be beaten decisively and convincingly on ground of their own choosing.

The troops of His Excellency, our dear brother and Kaiser, threw French troops out of a series of defensive positions and contained their aggressive but ultimately futile attacks. I particularly draw attention to the role played by FML Frimont de Palota, whose bravery and tactical skill destroyed one French division and drove off another. Your Excellency's own regiment, IR3, covered itself with glory in a determined assault against the French.

French arrogance has today been humbled by the calm determination of our troops. Our enterprise can only go from strength to strength in light of this terrific victory.


The Battle of Sacile: A Gamer's Perspective

The Table

I have decided to write two battle summaries, one by myself as a gamer, the other the victory despatch of Archduke John. My POV as a gamer will of course be coloured and biased, I was the Austrian CinC after all...Also, importantly, the Umpires had introduced the concept of victory conditions based on occupation of villages.

Initial moves.

Austrian infantry advance over a bridge

For me things began to go wrong before the game started. The right-hook I had planned was clearly going to be in trouble as the French had advanced the division of Grenier far beyond their original positions. The result was that any Austrian right hook was going to be constrained by lack of space: although we would ordinarily place extra tables to extend the space if fighting was going to take place, the wall of the hall was not going to allow this. So far ahead were the French that the Grenier player also complained that he had been placed too far ahead.

Another little niggle was that the umpires had got confused between Ignaz and Albrecht Guylai when it came to assigning players. The upshot was that the player commanding the Corps, Ignaz, was an inexperienced lad who I had wanted to play Albrecht. This would not have been a problem had he not been asked to make a series of decisions about the approach of IX Korps which saw him fatally split the formation over a linear obstacle. I swapped the players over, but the damage had been done. Here too, my own opaque orders in the Armeedispositionskarte played a role.

On the Left.

Austrians advance on Pieve

I had intended to hold on the left, but Frimont decided that there were opportunities to be exploited. Starting with his own division he gradually drew on the division of Albrecht Gyulai starting with the brigade of Colloredo-Mansfeld. Heavy fighting took place around the village of Talponedo with the Austrian troops gradually breaking and routing Severoli's Italians and pushing back Seras' infantry, continuing their advance on Pieve. VIII Korps had succeeded in wresting a key objective from the French and was pushing forward, but the terrain was difficult and the advance was slow.

The Centre.

The Austrian centre

In the centre Albrecht Guylai was first of all to take the village of Ronche, on the road from Rovereto to Fontanfredda. This was rapidly accomplished by the infantry of GM Berelat, who quickly advanced down the road and settled in, much to the discomfiture of the French around Fontanfredda who saw Ronche as a key objective they needed to gain. The place became even more important once the French lost Talponedo. Berelat's infantry drew up before Fontanfredda on the left of Ronche, whilst on the right FML Reisner's Grand Battery deployed with a view, in my mind, to pummelling Fontanfredda. This never happened. It became clear that even large batteries, some 12lb, were not going to scratch the place, a factor which led to some hasty rules re-writing at the next rules session. French efforts to eject Berelat's men continued through much of the day, and at one stage the Austrians were thrown out of Ronche, only to re-occupy it within a few moves from the disordered French. These attacks on Ronche weakened the French defenders of Fontanfredda which made the place look vulnerable to assault.

The Right.

The Austrian Reserve

The left wing was where the French redeemed themselves. With Besanez' infantry and the corps artillery on one side of a stream and Reichenberg's forces on the other things did not look great, especially as the Austrian deployment was so badly constrained by space. On the immediate right the Austrians began lining the stream with guns and infantry from Marziani's brigade as Grenier and all the French cavalry devastated Reichenberg. Archduke John led an attack by IR3 against Fontanfredda, which should have succeeded, but an umpire decision which totally contradicted the rules allowed the French defenders to instantaneously form from skirmish order to line behind a stone wall and repel them. If they had stayed in skirmish order (as the rules say) they would have been ejected. But you do not argue with umpires, their decisions overrule the book...

Meanwhile Reichenberg and Volkmann were effectively destroyed. Lack of space was the main reason as units pushed back disordered others in a hideous traffic jam. I was a little peeved at this, but short of demolishing a wall to make room for more tables the battle had to be fought on the table as designed.


Gajoli begins moving to the left

It was at this stage I made a critical error. I was now faced with a situation where my expected attack by IX Korps had stalled but VIII Korps was doing well, so I switched the emphasis to Frimont's attack. In so doing I robbed Albrecht Gyulai of his only uncommitted brigade, that of Gajoli, and sent it to get in Frimont's way instead. The result was the centre was now held by a thin and debilitated cordon of troops under Berelat. The French pushed a hussar unit down the road past Ronche and split the army in half. This, I reflected, would teach me about keeping reserves in the right place. That said it was not disastrous. Although Grenier was still pushing on his moves were taking him away from the villages that were victory points. The French in and around Fontanfredda were equally exhausted and Ronche was once again in Austrian hands. Also, looking at it, Gajoli was just a few moves from the centre, as was the Grenadier brigade of Altensteig. Any French moves along the Ronche-Rovereto road would have been caught in a pincer of two uncommitted and Fresh brigades. Meanwhile, Frimont with the troops he had would have gradually ground down Seras' French and reached the bridge leading to Sacile with all arms, rather that a tiresome but not really threatening French hussar regiment.


Severoli routing

Victory was awarded to the Austrians. Although the attack by Grenier had wrecked IX Korps light forces the drive had taken large numbers of French troops away from the VP rich area. Meanwhile the Austrians had taken Ronche and Talponeda putting them ahead in the VP stakes. I also learned some valuable lessons here: more clarity in my initial orders alongside a greater awareness of reserves and not being stampeded into using them too soon and for the wrong reasons.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Orders of battle for Sacile

Before giving an account of the game, here is an order of battle to allow a better idea of what I am going to be rambling about...

Army of Inner Austria

Armee Kommandant:
General der Kavallrie Erzherzog Johann

Oberst Laval Graf Nugent von Westenrath

GM Anton Freiherr von Reisner

VIII Korps: FML Johann Marquis de Chasteler
Generalstabschef: Oberstleutnant Ignaz Reinisch
Artilleriedirektor: Major Johann Freiherr von Fasching

Division: FML Albrecht Graf Guylai

Brigade: GM Heironymous Graf von Colloredo-Mansfeld
IR27 'Graf Strassoldo' 3 Battalions
IR61 'St Julien' 3 Battalions
Brigade Battery 8 3lb

Brigade: GM Peter Chevalier Marechal de Berelat
IR26 'Graf Hohenlohe-Bartenstein' 3 Battalions
IR16 'Graf Lusignan' 3 Battalions
Brigade Battery 8 3lb

Brigade: GM Anton von Gajoli
IR53 'Johann Jellacic' 1st and 2nd Battalions
IR62 'Franz Jellacic' 3 Battalions
Brigade Battery 8 3lb

Division: FML Johann Maria Frimont de Palota

Brigade: GM Joseph von Wetzel
GzIR10 '1st Banal' 2 Battalions
9th Jager 1 Battalion
ChlR2 'Graf Hohenzollern' 8 Squadrons
Cavalry Battery 6 6lb

Brigade: GM Josef Freiherr von Schmidt
HusR5 'Ott' 6 Squadrons
Cavalry Battery 6 6lb

Corps Artillery
Position Battery 4 6lb, 2 Howitzers
Position Battery 4 6lb, 2 Howitzers
Position Battery 4 12lb, 2 Howitzers
Brigade Battery 8 3lb
Position Battery 4 12lb, 2 Howitzers
(Transferred from IX Korps)
Position Battery 4 6lb, 2 Howitzers
(Transferred from IX Korps)
Position Battery 4 6lb, 2 Howitzer
(Transferred from IX Korps)

IX Korps: FML Ignaz Graf Guylai
Generalstabschef: Oberstleutnant Karl Habermann

Artilleriedirektor: Oberstleutnant Johann Freiherr von Calot

Division: FML Franz Gorup von Besanez

Brigade: GM Vitalis von Kleinmayer
IR43 'Simbschen' 3 Battalions
IR13 'Reisky' 3 Battalions
Brigade Battery 8 3lb

Brigade: GM Franz von Marziani
IR52 'Erzherzog Franz Karl' 3 Battalions
IR19 'Alvintzy' 3 Battalions
Brigade Battery 8 3lb

Division: FML Christian Freiherr Wolfskeel von Reichenberg
Brigade: GM Ignaz Freiherr von Splenyi
HusR9 'Frimont' 8 Squadrons
HusR2 'Erzherzog Josef' 6 Squadrons
Cavalry Battery 6 6lb

Brigade: GM J0hann Kalnassy von Kalnass (Transferred from Besanez’ Division)
GzIR3 'Oguliner' 2 Battalions
GzIR4 'Szluiner' 2 Battalions
Grenz Brigade Battery 8 3lb

Corps Artillery
Brigade Battery 8 6lb
Grenz Brigade Battery 8 3lb

Armee Avantgarde: Oberstleutnant Volkmann

DR5 'Savoyen' 6 Squadrons
GzIR11 '2nd Banal' 2 Battalions
HusR5 'Ott' 2 Squadrons
HusR2 'Erzherzog Josef' 2 Squadrons
IR53 'J Jellacic' 3rd Battalion (4 coys only)

Army Reserve: Under Archduke John

Brigade: GM Josef Freiherr Hager von Altensteig
Salomon Grenadiers 1 Battalion (6 coys)
Janusch Grenadiers 1 Battalion (6 coys)
Chimani Grenadiers 1 Battalion (4 coys)
Muhlen Grenadiers 1 Battalion (4 coys)
DR2 'Hohenlohe' 6 Squadrons
Cavalry Battery 6 6lb
Brigade Battery 8 3lb


Armee d'Italie

Prince Eugene de Beauharnais

Etat Major:
General de Division Charpentier

Commander in Chief Artillery:
General de Division Comte Sorbier

Division: GdeD Seras

Brigade: GdeB Garreau
35e Ligne 4 Battalions
53e Ligne 4 Battalions

Brigade: GdeB Roussel
106e Ligne 4 Battalions

Divisional Artillery
Comp a Pied 4 8lb, 2 Howitzers
Comp a Pied 4 4lb, 2 Howitzers
Division: GdeD Severoli

Brigade: GdeB Bonfanti
1st Italian Line Regiment 4 Battalions
2nd Italian Line Regiment 1 Battalion

Brigade: GdeB Peyri
7th Italian Line 3 Battalions
Dalmatian Regiment 2 Battalions
1st Italian Chasseur a Cheval 1 Squadron

Divisional Artillery
Italian Comp a Pied 4 6lb, 2 Howitzers
Italian Comp a Pied 4 6lb, 2 Howitzers
Division: GdeD Grenier

Brigade: GdeB Abbe
1eme Legere 4th Battalion
1eme Ligne 4 Battalions
Napoleone Dragoons (Italian) 1 Squadron

Brigade: GdeB Teste
52e Ligne 4 Battalions
102e Ligne 4 Battalions

Divisional Artillery
Comp a Pied 4 8lb, 2 Howitzers
Comp a Pied 4 4lb, 2 Howitzers

Division: GdeD Broussier

Brigade: GdeB Dessaix
9e Ligne 4 Battalions
24e Dragoons 1 Squadron

Brigade: GdeB Dutruy
84e Ligne 4 Battalions
92e Ligne 4 Battalions

Divisional Artillery
Comp a Pied 4 8lb, 2 Howitzers
Comp a Pied 4 4lb, 2 Howitzers

Division: GdeD Barbou

Brigade: GdeB Moreau
8e Legere 3rd and 4th Battalions
18e Legere 3rd and 4th Battalions
5e Ligne 3rd and 4th Battalions
11e Ligne 4th Battalion

Divisional Artillery
Comp a Pied 4 8lb, 2 Howitzers
Comp a Pied 4 4lb, 2 Howitzers
Cavalry Division: GdeD Sahuc

Brigade: GdeB Pages
6e Hussards 4 Squadrons
6e Chasseur a Cheval 4 Squadrons
8e Chasseur a Cheval 4 Squadrons
25e Chasseur a Cheval 4 Squadrons

Army Artillery
Comp a Pied 6 12lb, 2 Howitzers

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Orders For Sacile

The battlefield

Instead of issuing orders I decided to produce instead a long-winded Army Disposition in traditional Austrian Style. So here is the one for Sacile...

Armee Dispositionskarte

General Opinion

The Army of Inner Austria will continue to advance in order to establish itself along the river Tagliamento. There the army will halt and form a defensive cordon and await events in Bavaria. Every effort will be made to stimulate uprisings among the local population against the French and their puppet Kingdom if Italy. Rumblings of this are already evident in the Tyrol, where local disturbances are already taking place against their hated Bavarian overlords.

The events at Pordenone 15th April

On the 15th April, our Avantgarde force under FML Frimont clashed with a French force at the village of Pordenone. After a brief action our forces surrounded the village, drove off the French cavalry and took all the infantry prisoner, including the Eagle and the Colonel. Our forces continued their advance and FML Frimont occupied the villages of Palse, Porcia and Talponedo, Also, a second light force under Oberstleutnant Volkmann, was despatched to cover the right of the army. Two infantry companies of this force occupied Castello d'Aviano with its important bridge over the Torrente Artagna.

The evening of the 15th April and dawn of the 16th April

As the Avantgarde forces of FML Frimont and Oberstleutnant Volkmann took up their advanced positions the remainder of the army laagered around Pordenone. Our cavalry scouts have assessed enemy strength at five divisions of infantry and some light cavalry. The overnight heavy rains did not unduly disturb our forces. The forces of FML Wolfskeel will march out overnight to Rovereto, ready to commence their march at dawn towards Fontanfredda.

Army Orders Dawn, 16th April

The VIII Korps of FML Chasteler

The forces of FML Chasteler are directed to defend the villages of Porcia and Talponedo to their utmost ability. The village of Palse is considered to be an advanced post that can be abandoned under pressure. The Korps is also directed to occupy the village of Ronche.

In addition to his existing forces, FML Chasteler will be supported by GM von Reisner who will take command of VIII Korps artillery and add the 4th, 5th and 6th Position batteries from IX Korps and pace himself under the command of FML Chasteler. This force is intended to allow VIII Korps to reduce the village of Fontanfredda in preparation for assault by IX Korps.

The general role of VIII Korps is to absorb and repulse any French attacks from either Sacile or up road towards Palse.

IX Korps of FML I. Guylai

The IX Korps of FML Guylai is to leave Pordenone in the direction of Rovereto. This force is then to turn in the direction of Fontanfredda along the road from Rovereto. This force is to take position before Fontanfredda with its left wing on Ronche which is to be occupied by FML Chasteler.

The village of Fontanfredda is assumed to have been heavily bombarded by the artillery of FML Chasteler. If it has not time may be taken to allow this to satisfactorily occur. FML Guylai is then directed to commence an assault either side of Fontanfredda with the aim of surrounding the place. The village is only to be directly assaulted if casualties are not expected to be prohibitive.

FML Guylai is to take the Avantgarde forces of Oberstleutnant Volkmann under command as soon as contact is made. This force is directed to cover your right flank.

You are directed to surrender your three Position batteries in Korps Reserve to GM Reisner.

The Brigade of GM von Altensteig is to remain under the hand of GdeK Erzherzog Johann as army reserve.

The forces of GM Kalnassy and GM Splenyi di Mikaldy are to be despatched OVERNIGHT to Rovereto, ahead of the main body of troops under FML Besanez. For this purpose the brigade of GM Kalnassy is to be transferred to the divisional command of FML Wolfskeel who will command the force dedicated to the overnight occupation of Rovereto.

The Avantgarde of Oberstleutnant Volkmann

This force is to advance in an arc covering the front Vignovo-Fontanfredda. This force is to have multiple roles, namely:

  1. To defeat any French cavalry that appears
  2. To unterdict any French troop movements along the Vignovo-Fontanfredda road
  3. To protect the right wing of IX Korps that will be advancing from Rovereto in the direction of Fontanfredda.
  4. If possible, occupy Vignovo and push forces down the Vignovo-Sacile road cutting the French LoC.

The force is to come under the command of FML I. Guylai once contact between these forces are made.

General Observations

  • The French are considerably weaker in cavalry than we are, in both quantity and quality. Use this advantage well, but do not let this situation lull you into risky actions.
  • The majority of our batteries are of 3lb in calibre. These are designed to support infantry attacks and can be prolonged a considerable distance. Do not get bogged down statically with these guns but use their maneouverability.
  • The third battalions of our line infantry regiments are not particularly reliable, so where possible use these units as supports to other, more experienced, battalions.
  • Our large battalions offer a good prospect of attritional advantage over those of the French. Again, use this advantage wisely.

Morning Conference

A morning conference of senior officers will take place at the army headquarters in Pordenone at 6am. At this conference updates of French positions will be assesssed and any amendments to these orders will be given verbally at that conference.

Oberst Laval Graf Nugent von Westmeath


Armee von Inneroesterreich

John and Nugent discuss the coming engagement

My 1809

The big year

I have always been an Austrophile. Anyone who has ever read anything I have written about the period will be pretty aware of this. I started my hobby with a 15mm Austrian army and never really looked back. The army itself is pretty average. There are benefits: big infantry battalions, good quality cavalry and reasonable artillery. There are also disadvantages: a very average officer corps, a rather ponderous approach to warfare and army preservation taking precedence over the risks needed to win. On the whole, as an army, nothing will really save you from your mistakes (no show pony leaders, masses of guns or terminally stubborn infantry) but it will not simply crumble no matter what you do.

So I was looking forward to 2009. As a key player in the 200-ers I was looking forward to Austria standing alone and some good 1809 battles. In the end we did three: Sacile, Aspern-Essling and Wagram. Sadly, due to a bereavement, I was unable to make Wagram, where I was due to command. But I commanded and led the whitecoats to victory at both Sacile and Aspern-Essling. I was also looking forward to taking further steps to hammer the 'allied team', especially the younger lads in that group, into a good fighting organisation.

In terms of the scenarios Sacile was my idea. Not a Danubian battle, but a fairly even one in terms of numbers and troop quality with the usual difficulties of terrain that you find in Italy. Although small by the usual 200-er battles in Europe, it is as large as most battles in the Peninsular. It was also going to be a good test-bed for 1809 rules in general, particularly like things for masses, that we had grafted on to Art of Command. I would also get to play my much-maligned namesake: Archduke John.

Aspern-Essling was always going to be a different kettle of fish. Admittedly it was always going to be a tough call for the French, and a decisive French victory was only going to happen if the Austrians were incompetently handled. The French were going to be allowed to change what started over the river and the bridges over the Danube went up and down like a whore's knickers whilst the Austrians were constrained to historical arrival times and entry points.

I will say very little about Wagram as I was not there.

I had also been painting like mad for two years or more, churning out Austrians. The end result was that I had completed all of IV and V Kolonne by the time Aspern-Essling arrived. I was also happy that these Kolonne fell into the hands of two very good players: Tom Burke and Brett Smith. But more of the actual team when it comes to describing the battle. I will include a post before Aspern-Essling with photos of each of the units and generals to give everyone some eye-candy.

The other point to make is that I was already looking to 1813 even as 1809 began. Of course some of the infantry in 1813 would be in helmet, but troops I ordered for Wagram (which never got fielded) all ended up in shako. Not one to plan small, I am now looking at 4 years to do as much of Wittgenstein's Advance Guard as possible: starting with Austrian IV Armee Abteilung and II Prussian Korps. The latter can mostly be made from the excellent Calpe range. But I also have Spanish to complete, some French to polish off and a slow-burning Wurttemberg project. I have also recently been appointed Brunswick for our refight of Auerstadt and want to do the 27 Prussian squadrons from our upcoming battle of Heilbronn (5 done so far...)