Sunday 10 November 2013

D'Erlon's Assault with Muskets and Shakos: Part One

Have had this set up on the table since late August. 
Finally got around to playing the pre-game bombardment and first turns yesterday.

French Skirmishers Approach
 There were three turns of pre-game bombardment. 

Both Bilandt's brigade and the leading French battlions (off table at the moment) suffered.

A not very good shot of the Grande Battery and three French
 brigades in the off table holding area.
As it happened I could only scrounge up enough French troops to form 12 battalions rather than the 16 I had hoped to deploy. Yes, I could have used allied troops as proxies or recycled French figures as they became casualties. However as my interest in this affair has always been D'Erlon's unique formation in his attack on the ridgeline proper, I decided to surround La Haye Sainte with a cloud of skirmishers and presume this part of the battle happened as in the books. Lots of smoke and firing, with no appreciable change by the time of the great British cavalry charges.

Bilandt's Brigade under cannonade.
Playing as the French I decided to detach the light companies of all 12 battalions to form my skirmish line. Hopefully this will be enough to overpower the thick Allied skirmish line and still allow my troops to harry the main line on the ridge as the battalions advance. At the same time I hope I have retained sufficient strength in the formed battalions to prevail when they in turn reach the ridge. 

One aspect of Napoleonic warfare I wanted to stress in Mustkest and Shakos was the balancing act commanders faced when it came to releasing men to skirmish or retaining them in the line. Once released you have no guarantee they will return to their parent battalion during play. Throwing out too many skirmishers will overly weaken you formed units. Throwing out too few will permit enemy skirmishers to harass your forces unimpeded.

The French first line enters play.
After the bombardment I "reset" the battlefield by pulling the remnants of Bilandt's troops back to the ridge line. 27th Dutch was well beyond its sell by and I withdrew it from the line. 7th Belgian and 5th Dutch Militia  were each hovering around half effectiveness and so were given shortened frontages to defend.

The Prince of Orange confers with Bilandt.

As the French advanced, the Allied skirmish line was forced back. By the  luck of the dice (several of them really), the Allied skirmishers were able to inflict greater punishment than they received themselves. However French numbers were telling.

Now leaving La Haye Sainte on autopilot so to speak came back to haunt me.

The "problem" such as it is, revolves around the Lueneberg battalion.

As you may recall, dear Reader, the Lueneberg battalion was sent to reinforce the hard pressed defenders of La Haye Saint. Unfortunately for them, they failed to notice two regiments of cuirassiers bearing down upon them.

The rout was complete.

While this is often touted as one of the great successes of French arms on the day (and it is), I have wondered if in the long run it wasn't a rather unfortunate turn of events for France. You see having made this very successful charge the cuirassiers were in a bad spot when the British Household Cavalry Brigade made a charge of their own. 

The cuirassiers were swept away.

This was of course the same charge during which the Union Brigage routed D'Erlon's infantry. Had the cuirassiers not already been committed would these two fresh regiments have affected the outcome of the British cavalry charge?

Wellington weighs his options.

And so this is as good a time as any to break for the day.  

The preliminaries are over, and both sides are poised for the main event.

Not sure when I will take it up again although it might be as early as later today.

Still would love to read all of your thoughts on how to proceed.

My intent is to see for myself how D'Erlon's innovative tactics played out. I think he had taken a rather well though out approach to the problem of assaulting a British position and that it was really a combinations of circumstances that led to his defeat. 

Many others think quite the opposite. 

While using any game to recreate a historical event is fraught with danger in terms of fidelity, I do think this sort of thing can provide valid, if not "air tight" insight.


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