A few of the usual suspects met at the Hall of Heroes on Sunday 5th May to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Lutzen. There were fewer of us this day, as real life intruded and only 4 us were available to play.
Bryan took charge of the Russians, and I the Prussians, whilst Philip and Richard took charge of the Imperial Guard, and III Corps, respectively.
Lutzen has long been a fascination of mine, the first large battle of the 1813 campaign, in which Napoleon's newly raised army faced the triumphant Russians and resurgent Prussians for the first time. The Grande Armee of 1813 was an interesting mix of raw conscripts and seasoned veterans, and for once the wargamer is entirely justified in using large formations of the Imperial Guard, since this army within an army was now playing a major role.
For those of us who have been marking each of the major battles of the French and Napoleonic wars, this battle seem incredibly soon after the gripping and memorable Borodino game we staged just a few short months ago. In relative terms, a great deal has happened since then - Moscow burning, the terrible retreat, the defection of Yorck, and somehow Napoleon has conjured a new army from nowhere, and is now fighting to hold on to his German posessions...
Recently we played an earlier Lutzen scenario based on the opening stages of the battle, when the Coalition caught the French III Corps napping, and eventually launched an attack into the flank of the French Army. For this scenario we recreated the other end of the day, late afternoon and evening.
The French centre, Ney's III Corps, has recovered from its shock and held out against Blucher all day...but it is starting to crack. However Napoleon has judged the battle to the exact tipping point, and as the sun starts to head down to the horizon, he commits the Guard to the counter attack with the simple order: La Garde au Feu!
The set up for the game, set at 1800, is that the French Grand Battery is already in situ North of Starsiedel, and Latour Mabourg's I Cav Corps and the Imperial Guard under Mortier are deployed around and behind it. III Corps is pulling itself together and preparing to counter attack Rahna from Kaja.
The Russian Cuirassier Corps form the left, Eastern flank of the Coaltion battle array, but only their Cossack vanguard were actually on table at the start of the game. I Russian Corps was holding the centre. Blucher's I Corps is deployed just to the front of Rahna, on the Coaltion right flank, with Dolff's Cavalry acting as the link to the Russians.
The game was to last 7 moves, with dusk falling from move 6 so that all targets would be obscured. The French objective was to sweep the Coaltion from the table and retake Rahna. Easier said than done!
Matching the historical balance of forces, the French cavalry was outnumbered, so Philip decided to make the most of his initial advantage in numbers and successfully committed his Cavalry Corps in move 1, and boldly advance to contain the Russian Cavalry. Six regiments of Cuirassiers, screened by a brigade of Light Cav, thundered towards the Cossack screen, with the inevitable result. Bryan was severely hampered in his ability to fully wield his cavalry, which only had the space to come on in dribs and drabs, and his cavalry was steadily pushed back.
Over on the Eastern side of the table, Richard was deploying III Corps slowly and methodically, so I fell into the trap of over confidence. My 9 battalions were outnumbered, but I was confident that defending Rahna would be easy, so I committed the Prussian Cavalry to a spoiling attack in a bid to delay the deployement of the Imperial Guards...
However, Richard handled a combination of horse guns and light cav skillfully to protect the Guards, who didn't even have to form into square to cross the table and assault the Russian masses.
So the fight on the Western side of the field got up close and personal right from the outset, whereas Richard and I, apart from a clash of cavalry Bdes, seemed to be happy with a steady exchanges of skirmish volleys and cannonballs...
However, as the shadows started to lengthen, Ney/Richard judged that his Corps had sufficiently rallied for one last effort so that the Guard wouldn't be able to grab all the glory, and he launched a series of attacks at my Prussian brigades.
Despite my Fusiliers and Schutzen doing sterling work in inflicting casualties, they had to fall back before the advance of the Imperial columns. A couple of rounds of hard fought close combat followed, and whilst a couple of French columns were sent back with their tails between their legs, similar losses for the defenders resulted in an untenable position, and around Rahna as night fell the French were poised for a final assault on the town.
On the Western flank Bryan never quite managed to get into his stride in deploying this masses of heavy cavalry effectively, hampered as they were by the large beaten zone covered by the French Grand Battery, and the focused efforts of his Cuirassier Regiments.
Eventually all that was holding the line as dusk faded to night were a couple of Russian Infantry Brigades, and we conceded the game to the our gallant opponents, who had fought a skilful game, exploiting their initial advantages and force dispositions to keep the initiative throughout the game.
A fun game, and, despite the lack of players, and the accompanying 'sense of occasion', still very much an interesting and enjoyable game that I believe reflected the nature of that stage of the battle, and certainly gave a historical outcome.
I certainly couldn't blame my dice for defeat in this game, I was the proud owner of these fitting dice generously given to me by Kawe Weissi-Zadeh of Westphalia Miniatures. Truly one comes across some nice fellows in this hobby!
Looking forward, our imminent Gettysburg project will probably mean that the successor battle of Bautzen, 19-21 May, won't get replayed on time, but Leipzig is looming on the horizon for October!