Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hohenlinden Battle Report

The battle of Hohenlinden

I have waited to post this until the photos were available so I apologise if it has taken a little time to put this up. Thanks to Colin and Margaret for these. More are available on out Yahoo Group:

Hohenlinden Map

As you can see from my Dispositionskarte posted earlier, I had constructed a plan within the limitations of historical deployments. Reading that document you will also note that there is very little mention of the French, no counter-intuitive analysis as there was for Aspern-Essling. This was quite deliberate. Other than knowing that the French were ‘out there somewhere’ I had no notion of how much they were going to be allowed to alter their deployments so I simply wrote a plan around the basic assumption that they did not exist. This meant that columns may or may not bump into the French anywhere along their line of march at any strength, the corollary being that all columns would advance and that one or two might work their way to their objectives.

As the columns fought what were essentially separate battles I will treat each in separation.

The Right Column: FML Kienmayer 

Kienmayer was being played by David Shepherd, one of the best players, if not the best, in the club. This meant I could leave him pretty much to his own devices and, as he was going to be doing a lot of the heavy lifting, it worked out well. Assisted by Charles Moore as Archduke Ferdinand, his column was supposed to take Forstern and draw the French from the centre to allow the other columns to attack. This column was 100% successful in achieving its objectives.

Archduke Ferdinand arrives

Carving through the Division of GdeD Grenier (Brett Smith) and a significant portion of Bastoul’s Division as well (Asher Ben-Zion), displaying a high degree of aggression and assisted by the remarkable success of Esterhazy’s cavalry from Baillet’s Column (see below) the column drove on relentlessly, ending the game comfortably ensconced in Forstern with Ferdinand’s infantry untouched, this was effectively a cavalry engagement. In terms of drawing French troops from the centre there was no central reserve to draw off, only some cavalry which could be redeployed, without totally stripping the defence of Hohenlinden completely. These gestures were pretty futile and by the end of the game the Divisions of Grenier and Bastoul were effectively destroyed.

Centre-Right: Zweibrucken’s Division

Bavarians garrison Mittach

Glt Zweibrucken, commander of the reluctant Bavarians, was played by the charming Rod Sharp, not a great player, but keen and seemingly made of india-rubber. Zweibrucken arrived at Mittach to relieve Baillet, but there was no Baillet to relieve and there was no indication what had happened to him. Looking at his orders Zweibrucken elected to press on towards Hohenlinden, pushing Deroy’s brigade and Dorth’s cavalry to the edge of the treeline to see the spires of Hohenlinden. At this point an Umpire’s Cock Up intervened as Chaim Ben-Zion, playing Ney said ‘hold on, I have units all along that stream’, pointing to an area of the battlefield that the Bavarians could have seen openly 5 turns ago and had been happily marching past. This effect was disastrous for Zweibrucken. If they had been there then he would have been able to form a defensive line against them, instead they were allowed to march into their positions, threatening his LOC. In effect they were caught on the march. With poor training and morale the French carved through them with a light battalion, a battery and a cavalry regiment on the ‘wrong’ side, cut off from their compatriots. Wrede’s brigade smartly occupied Mittach to deny that to the French. Deroy tried to pull his brigade together in the woods as Zweibrucken’s little advance guard looked very isolated before Hohenlinden. 

Ney cuts Zweibrucken in half

But, as Rod argued at the wash and brush up, Ney’s attacks worked to our advantage as it drew on Baillet’s infantry to save the Bavarians. By the end of the game Ney was the one looking isolated and the Bavarians were back to being a fighting force.

The Column of FML Baillet de Latour

Baillet was due to be played by Steve Sharp, an experienced and aggressive player, assisted by Seb Twinning. At the last moment this was all altered: Steve was ill and Seb had other commitments on the new date. The new team was Ceasar Slattery as Baillet and a new young player whose name escapes me. Inwardly I groaned. The centre now had no shepherd; instead there were two fairly weak players and a newbie. Luckily, Steve Clubley as umpire, watched this area like a hawk and prevented the worst cock ups. Now I have particular issues with Ceasar: although he has now played in more than half a dozen games he seems to have learned nothing. He is also very needy. Both of these demand constant oversight, but in a battle like this that is impossible.  The new lad, who was playing Esterhazy, commenced his wargaming career with the club in great fashion. Carving up the road towards Kienmayer the French had placed a battery covering the bridge, but had crucially placed the supporting infantry battalion to the side, rather than behind it in square. Esterhazy also had the ‘Lucky’ fate card. This combination meant the battery missed and the Kurassier smashed through it into the open spaces beyond, and Esterhazy started to cross swords with the cavalry of Bastoul’s division. He had a great time from then on and contributed significantly to Kienmayer’s breakthrough. 

Baillet's column

Baillet, meanwhile, after some prompting, realised he needed to save Zweibrucken from Ney. So his infantry and a couple of cavalry regiments began to attack Ney’s infantry that had caused such devastation to Zweibrucken. As the battle came to a close Ney’s division was not broken, but it was clear that it was going to be in serious trouble very shortly as it was now very much out on a limb. Meanwhile Baillet had pushed some troops to the edge of the woods before Hohenlinden. Before them was pretty much nothing, and if the game had carried on it was clear to me that Ney would have been brushed aside or trapped between Baillet and Kienmayer, leaving it open for both Zweibrucken and Baillet to assault Hohenlinden.

The Centre Column: FML Kollowrat-Krakowsky

This was commanded by me. The issue here became one of timing as I faced off against Grouchy’s Division commanded by a new player (Nick Goddard) but backed up by Colin Boulain who was now in the big chair instead of Chaim. Having sent GM Spannochi’s brigade off on a separate route that arrived on turn 6 were I wanted it. I then waited for 11 more turns before the remainder of the column arrived. So I deployed into line and began to shuffle Spannochi forward. When Beyer’s brigade arrived I deployed them into line too tacked on to Spannochi’s right, anchored on the woods left and right.

Kollowrat's troops commence their attack

I then began a slow, steady attack against Grouchy’s line. The cavalry under Liechtenstein I ordered through the woods to strike behind Grouchy as my infantry pinned him. This was opposed by what French cavalry remained in the centre. It was difficult, emerging from the woods and unable to use weight of numbers, instead having to attrit the French, which would have led to an eventual breakthrough, just not a rapid one!

The Left Column: FML Reisch

Austrians attack Schutzen

The left column under Reisch (Bill Scott) assisted by Simon Brooks as Gyulai, soon found the remaining two French divisions: Decaen and Richepanse. This part of the wood was very dense and the battle here soon bogged down into a war in the woods, complicated fighting that left Richard Shilvock, umpiring, pulling his hair out. I had never really anticipated Reisch being able to join up with Kollowrat as his orders instructed, but he did manage to take Schutzen as a first step. In effect Reisch pinned two French divisions in a close battle that was even more isolated from the rest.

End Result

Baillets troops head for Hohenlinden

I had fully expected to lose this game, expecting the French to bung up the mouseholes with artillery and infantry. Instead they made several errors which contributed to their eventual defeat. The first was I could not discern a French plan. I am still not sure if they had one. Then there were deployment issues. The two reserve cavalry brigades should have been on their left which was more open to face off Kienmayer: they were in the centre and by the time they did get there the Austrians had already defeated the French cavalry in situ, they were too late to affect the actual issue. Ney was probably too far forward. Although the attack on Zweibrucken was successful, and undoubtedly personally satisfying, Ney was in his turn exposed to attack by Baillet. The third, and the one Steve Clubley highlighted, was the position of Decaen’s division. He argued that it should have been in the centre (where, at the end, it had skirted round to, but too late to have any effect). Colin pointed out that he was told if he moved Decaen he may not have arrived at all. My point was he was no real use where he was and not having him would have made no difference to the way the game went, but having him in the centre would: it would have been worth the risk. 

Decaen on the road

Qua game: it was excellent. Every player was engaged fighting, no-one was bored or doing nothing all day. We were all busy. Luck was also present, Ceasar and I rolled so many sixes we lost more melees than seemed feasible as we failed to inflict casualties. On the other hand Esterhazy’s card played at the right time was critical in collapsing the French left. In the end all my columns were pretty much intact, in some case untouched. The closest the French came to victory over a formation was against Zweibrucken, but having the woods to flee into and pull himself together in Ney could not destroy him. On the other hand two French divisions had been destroyed: Grenier’s and Bastoul’s and the French left was gaping open. In effect all the Centre had to do was pin the French and allow Kienmayer to roll them up.

Family Photo (Colin was behind the camera)


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