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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Austerlitz – A different kind of Anniversary

Through 2015 I conducted a number of what I call ‘refights’ (wargames based on historic battles) on the two hundredth anniversary of some of the battles of the 1815 campaign. They can be seen here:

At the end of the year I did something a little different.

Once upon a time I met a young lady and took her on a tour of my local hostelries. In the course of this evening it emerged that she had been told about my hobby by some of my colleagues and I was called upon to explain. The end result of this was the, now famous, tale that I recreated the battle of Austerlitz on a table in the Town Arms using beer mats and ash trays on our first date so she shouldn't have been massively surprised by what she has had to live with since. To celebrate twenty years of domestic bliss I decided to refight the battle properly. This was the result.

Problem one – Austerlitz is a BIG battle and my table is pretty small and as it is in the loft has a corner missing where the chimney goes through the roof. Still with a bit of juggling I managed a rough approximation.

Problem two – Well I know what happened in some detail so reproducing the element of surprise was going to be difficult. To get around this I used a historical deployment with various random factors to determine the arrival of Davout and the allies’ divergence from their historical orders.

Problem three – Set up in September and mostly played in October, there wasn’t much natural light and I forgot to compensate for this so a lot of these pictures are a bit ‘atmospheric’!

I used the scenario from the original edition of Volley and bayonet with my usual adapted rules. Compromises were made with the figures as I have very few 1805 uniformed troops so both sides used figures more suitable for later campaigns – They are, as usual, mostly plastic from a variety of manufacturers and all painted by me. The sawdust I have used to make the roads on this occasion was a little courser than my usual brand so less realistic – bit ‘old school’ I guess – but still the best way of marking roads I think...

The bare table looking from Sokolnitz towards the Santon hill at the top. The Pratzen Heights are on the right.
 Turn 1 (6 am):
French initial moves followed historical deployment with Murat’s cavalry moving to menace the allied right (opposite the chimney breast).

Bottom of table – Sokolnitz , nearest the camera The Russians can be seen massing just north of Pratzen, while the Austrians move towards the bridge at Sokolnitz.
The Austrian advanced guard. The Austrians were the first army I rebased using my 'two 60x40 bases per unit' method (here representing brigades) and so some of them retain a plain green covering that reflects their temporary nature - this has now been rectified!( Figures from HaT, Esci and Italeri)
Following the scenario, the allies also have to stick to their historic plan and act as if they are unaware of what is going on (not easy when you are playing both sides – good job I like role playing!)
The Russians deploy south of the Pratzen Heights behind the Austrians.

Austrian cavalry and Grenzers move towards Telnitz, skirting the Satschen Mere.

Turn 2:

No sign of Davout. But the French advance along the line.

Austrian cavalry fail their first reaction test and waltz into Sokolnitz, leaving Przybyczewsky’s Jaegers to deal with Beaumont’s Dragoons by themselves.

Turn 3:
Still no sign of Davout! There is a gaping hole in the French line where he should be.

(Bonaparte waits anxiously for Davout’s arrival – the tree, my first ever wargames tree, was nicked off my Mum’s Christmas cake more than thirty years ago and should probably be retired)
As Murat’s cavalry crash over the Bosenitz Stream I feel hampered by the lack of that corner of the table as this is where Murat’s charge should be taking place.

The Dragoons charge Przybyczewsky’s Jaegers taking them unawares in front and flank and routing them completely but their momentum carries them into the next Russian formation and they suffer minor casualties.
(yellow flag denotes disorder)

 Oudinot’s Grenadiers assault Blasowitz but are repulsed.
The Russian attack in the centre is beaten off :
...but their follow up attack at Blasowitz decimates the Grenadiers.

The Austrian Cavalry cross the Goldbach, penetrating deep into the French right.

(Light troops contest Telnitz)
Turn 4:
Davout is here!

III Corps finally march onto the battlefield and the Emperor's master plan can be implemented at last- or is it too late?

French Dragoons throw the Austrian cavalry back across the stream...

A stiff fight develops around Puntowitz in the centre.

On the left Blasonitz falls to a renewed assault by Oudinot’s Division.
Austrian Uhlans successfully counter attack Davout’s Dragoons and Russian Grenadiers thunder across the bridge into Sokolnitz.

While the Grenzers continue to Skirmish with Telnitz; keeping it occupied.

More Allied cavalry arrives and the Infantry of The Russian Lifeguard moves to occupy the Pratzen Heights. (Reversed guns denote limbered battery)

Turn 5:
A charge by Suhac’s Dagoons (here played by a unit of Chasseurs à Cheval owing to a lack of Dragoons) overthrows and destroys the Austrian Schwartzenberg Uhlan Regiment at Sokolnitz and artillery fire forces the Austrian Light Dragoons back across the stream.

Napoleon attempts to consolidate his position by moving Bernadotte to the centre and Murat moves his Cuirassiers in support.
The Russians ford the Goldbach at Solkolnitz.

Fighting continues in the centre with no result but the French continue to gain ground around Blasewitz in the North.
(Blasewitz top left)
Turn 6:
Kisters Brigade (III Corps) fail to stop the Russian Grenadiers from establishing a bridgehead and are driven off. Despite desperate fighting the Russians cross the Goldbach. They take Kobelnitz …
Turn 7:
Things are getting desperate; the Emperor commits the Guard and feeds I Corps into his centre.
More hand-to-hand fighting around Blaswitz and a fierce scrap develops in the environs of Sokolnitz.

Turn 8:
I Corps stem the flow of Russians across the Goldbach at Puntowitz while in the south Telnitz falls to the Austrians. Both sides position themselves for the decisive stage of the battle.
To the north the allies mass to contain the threat of the French cavalry.
Turn 9:
For a moment it looked as though this turn would see Napoleon’s masterstroke fall. Strong attacks were launched all across the front but it was not to be as they were all thrown back with heavy losses. Victory for the Emperor is now looking unlikely.
Turn 10:
Well luck really wasn’t with the French on this occasion, by the end of this turn they were well and truly beaten. Only the fresh troops of I Corps prevented the dissection of the army.
A remnant held on around Sokolnitz but possessed neither the village nor the castle.
Puntowitz still held but only just.
Blasowitz was burning while the survivors of it garrison died. All divisions (except one in I Corps) had reached their exhaustion points, as set in the scenario.The allies were also in bad shape but one strong push could probably have taken all the remaining villages whereupon the pursuit could have begun.
Basically I am not Napoleon!