Saturday, 8 June 2019

Battle of Brienne, revisited

Steve has been keen to have another go at the battle we fought last November, this time with him taking the French command, so we set it all up again at his place. I commanded the Russians, as before

Victor's infantry Corps and Milhaud's Cavalry Corps are already on the table heading for the small hamlet of Brienne

Blucher with Karneliov's Brigade are based at the Chateau

Udom's brigade plus Corps artillery are stationed to the right of the hamlet, beyond them are Pahlen's light cavalry vanguard

Marching up the road towards Brienne le Chateau, the French objective, are Tallison's brigade flanked by Lanskoi's hussar brigade

Tallisin and Lanskoi need to get into position to protect the village before the French get there

Pahlen's hussars change into attack columns as the Russian guns open fire on Victor's infantry

French lines and columns march together

and cavalry move up on their left

a French horse battery is quickly deployed

as Hussars trot towards the Chateau

Lanskoi's hussars move to counter them

a more formidable sight - a brigade of French dragoons replace the hussars at the front

and a second brigade of dragoons arrives too

Tallisin's men are now in place guarding Brienne but Lanskoi's hussars have blundered and ended up in front of Tallisin instead of countering the French cavalry to their front !

Over on the Russian right, Pahlen has charged his hussars towards the French infantry, although Guard Horse Grenadiers and Lancers have now managed to get across the battlefield to intervene

Victor's infantry and Olsuviev's men are now in hand to hand combat to the right of the Brienne hamlet

watched by Napoleon and his ADCs

Olsuviev has only one brigade (Udom's) up against two big enemy brigades so he has his work cut out !

The fight for the centre continues for much of the battle but it is vital that Udom delays the enemy

Three Russian guns have retreated from the front line - they are not keen on being too near the enemy  and Pahlen's cavalry are being hit heavily out on the right flank

The remaining Russian guns have managed to disorder the Lancers of the Imperial Guard though

and the Dragoons of the Guard are on their stamina limit so have been pulled back to reform

Milhaud's Dragoons have charged the Russian hussars in front of Brienne

as their second brigade awaits orders, as do the French hussars

French reinforcements arrive - Ney's Young Guard

We need to march to the attack General !

The French infantry continue to push back Olsuviev's infantry columns

The French dragoons fight with the Russian hussars continues 

they retire but have caused more damage to the Russians

however, this does bring them under the Russian guns at the Chateau who get some revenge for the hussars

Russian reinforcements arrive in the shape of Pantshichscheff's Dragoons and Cossacks who are immediately into action with the second French Dragoon brigade

more French dragoons have attacked the Russian guns on the hill - one gun is destroyed

Two batteries of Russian horse artillery deploy as Bernadossow's 18th Infantry division marches up to Brienne in the nick of time

The guns are pushed forward to hammer the approaching enemy

Victor's Corps have defeated Olsuviev's men and now ready themselves for the next stage - as Ney's Guard infantry march into Brienne hamlet

The Russian and French dragoons cross sabres

Cossacks in support

The French dragoons are defeated and their brigade breaks

The French have to reorganise now as a gap has appeared

but there is a lull as the Russian cavalry need to reform after taking casualties

The Russian gunners continue to manhandle the guns into better positions

Bernadossow's men form into attack columns and make for the right of the line

Straight into combat with the Young Guard on a similar course

One reckless Cossack unit charges across the front of the French lines to try and get the flank of a French battalion in line

Ney's troops behind Brienne hamlet form into attack columns

The cossacks receive fire from artillery and infantry but somehow survive

but their charge has forced French infantry into square just as they are about to receive an infantry charge

Unbelievably, a Russian column has not only lost to a French square but fled the field ! However, the Russians are getting the upper hand in this brigade tussle

To try and hold the Russian cavalry, Napoleon has committed his Guard Lancers and Guard d'Honneur in a charge against the cossacks

the cossacks are sent reeling but the Red Lancers retire leaving the Guard d'Honneur isolated 

Bernadossow's infantry have thrown back the Young Guard and they break

but Russian casualties are so high, they have to withdraw from the field too

by this point, darkness has fallen reducing visibility and both sides are exhausted

on the French side, this is the only fresh brigade but with Blucher still on their flank in the chateau with Karnielov's Division its too risky for them to advance 

Both sides have taken punishing casualties but the Russians still hold Brienne village as well as the chateau and have resumed a defensive posture. The French do not have the strength to attack again so Steve decides the French army would withdraw at this point under cover of darkness leaving the Russians in possession of Brienne.

This was a hard fought slog between sizeable forces. We started at around 1030 and excepting for our customary pub lunch for an hour, we carried on until 2000 hours, so a real marathon ! 

1 comment:

  1. Wow - what a titanic struggle. Great battle report. Grinding infantry fights, and swirling cavalry melees. A very Napoleonic action!