Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Battle of LIGNY, 1815 AAR#1




Carnage&GloryII
Napoleonic Battle Scenario:

The Battle of Ligny/The assault on St. Amand – June 16, 1815
Von Zieten I versus Vandamme

Historical Perspective:

On 15 June Napoleon had crossed the Sambre at Charleroi and had pushed a wedge between Wellington and Blücher. His army was divided into three parts: on the left wing one corps and two cavalry divisions stood under the command of Marshal Ney, on the right wing two cavalry corps under Marshal Grouchy and in the centre three corps (including the Imperial Guard) and Milhaud's IV Cavalry Corps (cuirassiers) as a heavy cavalry reserve under the command of Napoleon. Napoleon's most important goal consisted of keeping the two opposing armies separated and striking each individually. For this purpose Ney would move against the Anglo-Allies on Quatre Bras and hold Wellington's forces there. At the same time the French III Corps under Vandamme and IV Corps under Gérard would attack the Prussians frontally on their line of defense between Wagnelée, St. Amand and Ligny, while Grouchy marched on Sombreffe. Girard's 7th Infantry Division, detached from Reille's II Corps, the bulk of which was at Quatre Bras, reinforced Vandamme. Napoleon wanted to advance in the centre of the
Prussian position at Fleurus and decide the battle with a final advance by the Old Guard. The plan of separation of opposing armies and defeat in detail was an old and favored stratagem of Napoleon's, dating back to his operations in Italy, and had been the deciding factor in his campaigns in Austria, and in his battles with the Fifth Coalition.

Blücher's troops consisted of the I Prussian Corps under Ziethen, the II Corps under Pirch I and the III Corps under Thielmann. The I Corps was located in the foremost position and had support from the II Corps located behind it - their task, the defense of the villages of Ligny, Brye, and St. Amand, while the III Corps formed the left wing and covered the routes of withdrawal towards Gembloux and Namur. Blücher and Wellington had to avoid being separated, and on the morning of the battle Wellington rode to a meeting with Blücher at the windmill of Brye and promised Blücher the support of at least one Anglo-Allied corps. Wellington then returned to Quatre Bras.

Napoleon delayed his attack until about 1430 when he heardbcannon fire coming from the direction of Quatre Bras, and concluded that his left flank was secure. This delay also gave Gérard's Corps more time to deploy as it had only recently arrived in Fleurus, and had an important role to play in Napoleon's plan of attack on Ligny. Both delays meant that there was less time to win a decisive victory.

Napoleon began the attack with a cannonade by the Guards artillery positioned around Fleurus. Shortly afterwards Vandamme's Corps, with Girard's Division attached on its left, attacked the hamlet of St. Amand La Haye. Elements of Steinmetz's Brigade, defending St. Amand, could not withstand the pressure of Lefol's Division and was forced to retreat. Shortly afterwards a counter attack by General Steinmetz with six additional battalions recaptured the hamlet. A renewed attack by Vandamme's troops led to a bitter fight in which the Prussians lost approximately 2,500 men and possession of both Saint-Amand and St. Amand La Haye.

With the loss of St. Amand and St. Amand La Haye, Blücher's right flank threatened to give way, so he ordered Pirch II's Brigade to retake St. Amand La Haye. Although Girard was mortally wounded [he died in Paris on 25 June of his wounds] the French held the hamlet, so Blücher ordered Tippelskirch to envelop the French with an attack by units of the II Corps on the left flank of the hamlet. French reinforcements, deployed in front of Wagnelée, attacking Tippelskirch's brigade as they marched out of the grain fields to get into position for their attack. The French counter-attack drove them back into the hamlet.

At about 1700 Vandamme sighted a large unidentified force advancing on Fleurus, which he incorrectly assumed to be enemy troops, these were in fact D’Erlon’s forces. The French needed to ascertain if these were friend of foe. And as the French hesitated, Blücher took the initiative ordering an attack on Vandamme’s position. Vandamme received support from Duhesme's Young Guard and the Prussians were thrown back to their original positions.

Blücher now received a message that Wellington was heavily engaged fighting Ney and, therefore, could on no account send support to Ligny. In order to force a decision Blücher decided to counter-attack Vandamme once more. First, he strengthened his exhausted forces in Ligny, and then he collected his last reserves and personally led an attack on St. Amand. The attack was initially successful and the Prussians managed to recapture St. Amand Le Hameau, but the attack faltered and they were counter-attacked by elements of the Guard west of St. Amand, which precipitated a disorderly retreat from St. Amand La Haye.

On the Prussian right, Zieten's I Corps retreated slowly with most of its artillery, leaving a
rearguard close to Brye to slow the French pursuit. The bulk of the rearguard held their
positions until about midnight, before following the rest of the retreating army. In fact, Zieten's I Corps rearguard units only left the battlefield in the early morning of 17 June, as the French were too exhausted to press their advantage.

Armies:
French Army:

L'Armée du Nord (68,000 men) under the command of Emperor Napoleon I.
Old Guard Division GD Friant
Middle Guard Division, GD Morand
Young Guard Division, GD Duhesme
Heavy Cavalry Division, GD Guyot
* I Corps, commander: GD Drouet d'Erlon (Corps not engaged)
1st Division, GB Quiot
2nd Division, GD Donzelot
7th Infantry Division, GD Girard
8th Infantry Division, GD Lefol
10th Infantry Division, GD Habert
11th Infantry Division, GD Berthezène
3rd Cavalry Division, GD Domon
12th Infantry Division, GD Pécheux
13th Infantry Division, GD Vichery
14th Infantry Division, GD Hulot
Cavalry reserve, GD Jacquinot
20th Division, GD Jeanin
III Cavalry Corps, commander: GD Kellermann (at Quatre Bras, except:)
11th Division, GD l'Héritier
IV Cavalry Corps, commander: GD Milhaud
14th Cavalry Division Delort
By contrast, the Prussian Army was, at this point, in a sorry state. According to historian Peter Hofschröer "The armed forces fielded by the Kingdom of Prussia in 1815 were in terms of quality of manpower, equipment, and coherence of organization probably the worst fielded by Prussia in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The Prussian cavalry was reorganizing and converting the Freecorps and Legions into regular cavalry formations. The artillery was lacking guns and needed equipment and, in fact, guns and equipment continued to arrive from Prussia even as the battles were raging. No less than one third of the Prussian Infantry consisted of Landwehr (militia) and, unlike the Landwehr of 1813/1814, these were untrained. Hofschröer says that "they could be counted to go forward in disorder and retreat in chaos". To further compound the Prussians' problems, the Saxon and Rhinelander contingents were recent additions to the Prussian Army and were reluctant at best; in fact, the Saxons rebelled and were sent home before the French advanced, and many of the Rhinelanders would desert and head home during the battle.

Prussian Army:

Prussian Army (84,000 men), under the command of Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher
Lieutenant-General (Chief of staff): August von Gneisenau
  • I Corps, commander: Lieutenant-General von Zieten
1st Brigade, Major-General von Steinmetz
2nd Brigade, Major-General Pirch II[4]
3rd Brigade, Major-General Jagow
4th Brigade major, general Henckel von Donnersmarck
Reserve Cavalry, Lieutenant-General von Röder
1st brigade, von Teskow
2nd brigade, von Lützow
Reserve artillery, von Lehmann
5th Brigade, Major-General von Tippelskirch
6th Brigade, Major-General von Krafft
7th Brigade, Major-General von Brause
8th Brigade, Major-General Bose
Reserve Cavalry Major-General of Cavalry, von Wahlen-Jürgass
1st brigade, von Thümen
2nd brigade, von Schulenburg
3rd brigade, von Sohr
Reserve artillery, von Röhl
9th brigade, von Borcke
10th Brigade, von Kämpffen
11th Brigade, von Luck
12th Brigade, von Stülpnagel
Reserve Cavalry Major-General Hobe
1st brigade, von der Marwitz
2nd brigade, von Lottum
Reserve artillery, von Mohnhaupt
Prussian preparations:

The Prussians were not caught napping and set up a series of artillery/cavalry outposts whereby the cavalry patrolled the front and raced back to the artillery which would fire cannon in a prearranged signal. In this way the thinly stretched 1st and 2nd Brigades were promptly alerted and began rapid assembly General Zieten's I Corps would begin a difficult delaying/ fighting/ withdrawal giving time for the Prussian Army to assemble. The post chain was a relay of towns, each set up as a fortified village. Each was commanded by a Prussian officer who made sure that the post kept enough horses, forage, and troops to move messages efficiently along. In addition these posts served as intelligence posts where surveillance would take place, stragglers would be collected up, and wandering civilians would be closely questioned. A post chain was set up all the way back to Blücher's command post so that the Headquarters was alerted from the first French deployment. General Steinmetz' 1st brigade of the I Corps had been very active in touring his outposts on 12 May, 17 May, 21 May, and 9 June. Out posting and intelligence collection were given proper weight.

Reports sent back to General Steinmetz indicated that an attack was seen as imminent as soon as 12 June. During the period of 12 June through to 14 June reports were sent by the I Corps brigade commanders and General Zieten himself to General Blücher and General Wellington. In addition communications were made with the Dutch cavalry adjoining I Corps position to the west. It is notable that General Steinmetz ordered his brigade to assemble for defense on the night of 13 June and General Pirch II on the morning of the 14th, so thick was French deployments to their front. The first French attacks were to take place on 15 June.

Ligny-Karte.png

Converging towards battle:

On 15 June Napoleon had crossed the Sambre at Charleroi and had pushed a wedge between Wellington and Blücher. His army was divided into three parts: on the left wing one corps and two cavalry divisions stood under the command of Marshal Ney, on the right wing two cavalry corps under Marshal Grouchy and in the centre three corps (including the Imperial Guard) and Milhaud's IV Cavalry Corps (cuirassiers) as a heavy cavalry reserve under the command of Napoleon. Napoleon's most important goal consisted of keeping the two opposing armies separated and striking each individually. For this purpose Ney would move against the Anglo-Allies on Quatre Bras and hold Wellington's forces there. At the same time the French III Corps under Vandamme and IV Corps under Gérard would attack the Prussians frontally on their line of defense between Wagnelée, Saint-Amand and Ligny, while Grouchy marched on Sombreffe. Vandamme's corps was reinforced by Girard's 7th Infantry Division, detached from Reille's II Corps, the bulk of which was at Quatre Bras. Napoleon wanted to advance in the centre of the Prussian position at Fleurus and decide the battle with a final advance by the Old Guard. The plan of separation of opposing armies and defeat in detail was an old and favoured stratagem of Napoleon's, dating back to his operations in Italy, and had been the deciding factor in his campaigns in Austria, and in his battles with the Fifth Coalition.

Blücher's troops consisted of the I Prussian Corps under Ziethen, the II Corps under Pirch I[13] and the III Corps under Thielmann. The I Corps was located in the foremost row and had support from the II Corps standing behind it – the task, the defence of the villages of Ligny, Brye, and Saint-Amand, while the III Corps formed the left wing and the routes of withdrawal while defending Gembloux and Namur. Blücher and Wellington had to avoid above all being separated. Still in the morning of the battle Wellington rode to a meeting with Blücher at the windmill of Brye (or Bussy) and promised Blücher the support of at least one Anglo-Allied corps.

After the break for discussion with Blücher, Wellington left for Quatre Bras. In reaction to the troop movements of the French, II and III Corps began sending reinforcements to I Corps under General Ziethen. The Prussian front lines were too long for the troops available and were depending on the arrival of the IV Corps under Bülow advancing from Liège south west of the battlefield.

The Prussians now faced the French with 82,700 troops, with the French Army numbering around 60,800 available troops.


My starting position on the extreme Right Flank (Wagnalee)! #528 were my troops mistakingly placed on the board (French spies) and were taken off to return on turn Two!

The enemy survey's the battlefield and prepares to move.

The view of the assault from the French perspective. The terrain done by Nigel himself using (Yes, believe it, or not?) Teddy Bear fur. Nigel has truly mastered this medium. I love the flowing wheat field effect!

And the view from my initial battle positions. Let the game begin!

As the French have the initiative they will move first! The Green markers you see placed in the Built up Areas (BUA's) represent the different difficulty levels required in order to traverse the BUA's. They range from Light, to Medium and Heavy!

The Prussian center will have to move rapidly in order to stop the rapidly advancing French from aquiring the BUA's of St.Amand and St.Amand-Long-Prez/Ferme La Haye!

The initial Prusiann forces to stem the tide are in Skirmish order behind the hedge rows as the reserves move up.

A closer perspective from within the BUA.

And my troops positions in the Center in perspective to the first line of defense.

The enemy at first appears to be coming straight on. My hopes are they will do so, and when my troops come on board in turns two and three, unbeknownst to them, I'll just roll straight up their flank. That's my initial plan so far.

Now if you've read any of my previous posts I've already introduced you to my good friend Murphy. We'll he decides to rear his ugly head again and the French players decide to come right at me and to try and take the BUA of Wagnalee. There goes my initial plan. "Merde" from the jump!

You Bastards!

The French fear not and assault the whole main line defensive positions to try and basically overwhelm/overrun our positions. We're not so sure why our Commander and Chief (CinC) left some of our troops exposed like a finger in the middle? Maybe it was to say "FU" French you just try to overrun us!

My HOPE was that the actions in the Center and our Left Flank as well as the finger would divert the French attention from Wagnalee.

As well as this wooden farmhouse. Perhaps the French would hold this as it was a Prussian victory point!

But alas it was not to be and the French assaulted the lines everywhere.

TO BE CONTINUED........

2 comments:

  1. Stunning terrain and a superb looking game overall

    ReplyDelete