Friday, 9 November 2018

Battle of Brienne, January 1814

Graham and I descended on Steve's place yesterday as he had set up a big battle - Brienne, Napoleon against Blucher in France in 1814.  Black Powder rules, using the new amendments in version 2.

As I provided most of the Russians, I took the role of Blucher's advance elements with Steve to bring on the reinforcements later. Graham played Napoleon beautifully !

Here's the view down the 10' x 6' table from the Russian end. In the distance the village of Brienne-le-Chateau is in the hands of Blucher but Napoleon is nearly upon him !

The Russian advance guard under Pahlen is on the Russian right and comprises five hussar units and two horse guns. To their left, Olsufiev's IX Corps in and around the village, watched by Blucher.

Facing the Russian advance guard, Victor's II Corps with three foot guns

Marching to the sound of the guns on the Russian side, Lanskoi's hussar brigade and Karnielov's 15th Infantry Division.

Recently, the unlucky landord, M.Mourrie, had moved to this part of the world to start his little tavern business again - surely it will be quieter here ?

On the French right, Milhaud's V Cavalry Corps, led by the dragoons, advances towards the imposing chateau on the hill by the woods

Blucher has directed Udom's troops to occupy the small houses in Brienne-le-Chateau, supported by three guns.

The French cavalry skirt around this, leaving the infantry of Victor's Corps to deal with this.

Napoleon watches the Russian guns cut swathes through Victor's advancing battalions. Behind him, Desnouette's Guard Lancers wait for their orders.

Here you will see that Pahlen has decided to withdraw his cavalry, except for his horse guns which are playing "cat and mouse" with the advancing enemy infantry, trying to inflict damage on them and then retreating before they can be caught. The Russian infantry remain in and around the village.

Not a moment too soon, Lanskoi's hussars arrive on the Russian left and without pausing, head straight for the enemy dragoons that are flanking the village.

Crunch ! Cavalry melee, just below the chateau.

Milhaud has sent up two horse guns to fire on the village and a second cavalry brigade waits their turn in reserve.

Here is Napoleon's target, the village of Brienne at an important road junction, now occupied by Karnielov's 15th Division

Napoleon encourages Victor's men to capture Brienne-le-Chateau

but the combined Russian artillery and musket firepower breaks the attacking French brigade - a gaping hole appears in the French lines

The Emperor is less than impressed !

Meantime, the cavalry clash continues, tit for tat,

One Russian unit has chased off a French dragoon regiment but another French dragoon regiment has won its own part of the battle

In the end, the Russian hussars are beaten and their brigade broken but they have bought valuable time for the Russian forces making their way to the battlefield

The French dragoons pause for a moment at the chateau - dangerously close to Blucher !

Lunch break ! Pie and a pint at the Chequers as is right and proper.

Back to battle, the Lanskoi's Russian hussars withdraw

but the French dragoons are found to be a broken brigade too - they must withdraw too.

Now we see Ney's Young Guard start to arrive - this is Meunier's 1st Voltigeur Division

and this Decouz's 2nd Voltigeur Division 

With Victor's remaining men pressing hard on the Russian right, Scherbatov has withdrawn 7th Division to comply with Pahlen's line, leaving Udom to hold the village as best he can.

The guns had not been withdrawn and they are now flank attacked by the Lancers of the Guard

Now a welcome sight for the Russians - Vassilchikov's Cavalry Corps, appears in strength, heavy cavalry to the fore, cossacks at the rear.

At this point, Pahlen's hussars charge the approaching enemy cavalry on the Russian right 

at the same time, Tallisin's infantry division charge Victor's artillery which have advanced too close and are still limbered - the guns are lost.

and also now, Bernadossov's 18th infantry division marches onto the field of battle

Brienne itself remains quiet and in Russian control

In the centre, the only remaining French gun is a Guard Horse battery which had witnessed the destruction of the Corps artillery on their right

Blucher has remained at the front (didn't he always ?)

The cavalry have become blown on the right but the Russians still have their horse guns as a threat

The French columns turn to attack Tallisin's men and a desperate struggle ensues in the centre

but on the Russian left, the large cavalry coprs pour through the gap between Brienne and the woods to attack the remaining French cavalry by the chateau

French and Russian infantry continue their melee

Karnielov's infantry march steadily towards the fighting


A French battalion has failed to form square quick enough  and Pahlen's hussars have charged home

with the French attack breaking down on their right and more Russian infantry arriving, Napoleon begins to see his plan coming apart

One small victory, the Young Guard have captured half of Brienne-le-Chateau

but the massed Russian cavalry has just smashed into the remnants of Milhaud's Corps

The Russians refuse to concede the centre

The Young Guard has committed all its units into the attack on Brienne-le-Chateau, so all thoughts of Brienne itself have long gone.

The weight of numbers are against the French cavalry

and they begin to crumble

Inevitable against fresh Russian heavy cavalry

The French cavalry retreat and Napoleon admits defeat

Fancy a drink, Marshal Blucher ?

This was a very tense and interesting scenario - having started at 11am, we did not finish until 7:30 in the evening (our lunch break was one hour) so we were all shattered !

In total, we had 17 French battalions, 13 French cavalry units and 7 batteries against 15 Russian battalions, 17 Russian cavalry units and 10 guns. We reduced battalions down to 24 men and cavalry to 6 to fit it all in and make allowances for our limited collections of toy soldiers.

Great fun though - I think our next Napoleonic will be La Rothiere.