I love a brave soldier who has undergone the baptism of fire.
-NapoleonThe Prussians got their first appearance on the table on Saturday. Kraft's 6th Brigade and my 4 battalions of 1st Brigade along with 3 foot batteries, 1 heavy foot batter and a horse battery received their baptism by fire. Although it wasn't a great day for the Prussians, I don't think the French will be gleefully writing their report to Napoleon either.
July 15, 1815 -- Somewhere in Belgium
Girard's 7th Division with a brigade of Pire's Light Cavalry division and the man himself are hounding the remnants of 1st Brigade across the Belgian country side as Von Steinmetz attempts to save I Corps Artillery reserve from the disaster at Gosselies where most of 1st Brigade was broken and fled north towards Brussels. Von Pirch I has sent his leading element, Kraft's 6th Brigade to try to secure the retreat 1st Brigade and the artillery of I Corps towards Fleurus.
The Prussians lack any real cavalry support and have only 1 squadron of the 1st Silesian Hussar remaining from Gosselies. The Brave and Loyal Prussians turn to face the inevitable French assault and take up a defensive position along a line of hills.
|The Field of Battle|
Pire and Girard were however not as close on the heels of the Prussians as they thought and entered from the other side of the village.
|The French take the Field (of Glory... they Hope!)|
The Prussians pivot to meet the French. The three battalions of 1st Westphalian Landwehr, allegedly an untrained rabble militia, and the first battalion of the regulars of 12th Line anchor the right.
General Major Kraft pushes forward the 26th Line, a green reserve unit, and along with a horse battery position themselves at the heights near where the road takes a sharp turn. The 9th moves up in reserve and the Elbe Landwehr, a trained militia, go to reinforce the Westphalians on the right flank staring down the discouragingly sharp looking lance tips of the 5th Lancers and a horse battery.
General Kraft appears to be taking a surprisingly aggressive posture despite the defensive nature of their strategic position. General Steinmetz was becoming concerned. The French it was rumored were rated as Crack infantry and cavalry... despite Napoleon losing 500,000 men in the little Russian adventure and then losing men across Poland, Saxony, Germany, the Rhineland, and to the gates of Paris for 3 years....oh and that whole abdication thing.... the Prussian's were facing the Cream of the French Infantry.
Girard was forced to extend his line and address the threat of the 26th line on his right flank and the rest of the division advanced slowly in the face of the Prussian artillery. The I/11th Legere (formed from the Tirailleurs du Po) charged the advanced II battalion of the 26th line and were thrown back in disgrace taking 20% casualties and running for the rear.
Further disaster befell the French when (foreshadowing things to come) Freiweilliger Jagers of 6th Brigade shot General Girard from his horse wounding him forcing his command to take a morale check. The voltiguers of the 11th Legre, however, did manage to snipe and disrupt the crew of the Prussian horse battery.
General de Brigade De Villier took over for General Girard launched II battalion of the 12th Legre in the French center to clear away the Prussian skirmishers. These brave souls over extended themselves and were charged by a column of the 26th line and in the flank by the 120 brave souls of the remaining squadron of the 1st Silesian Hussars. The French fled and the 60 remaining men of the Silesian Hussars followed up the French riding in amongst the fleeing soliders even as the French returned to the main French line.
But the French had an ace of their sleeves. General Pire sent his 5th Lancers into a magnificent charge taking the column in column, clearing the entire front of the French line from left to right flank. The shot and shell beleaguered 12th Legere gave a great rolling cheer as the Lancers cleared the Prussian skirmishers that had assailed them. The lancers sent the Prussian skirmishers running for friendly lines and caught the heroes of the II/26th celebrating their victory over the 11th Legere and in the middle of forming square. The 5th Lancers offered no quarter and cut them down to a man, taking no prisoners. The Lancers then took a nice victory lap around the hill to complete their circuit of the French position. The 6th Lancers dispatched the exhausted remnants of the Silesian Hussars, but not before the Silesians returned the favor in kind, sabreing down the rest of the battalion of the 12th Legere.
General Pire continued to reshape the field of battle and launched the 1st and 6th Chasseurs a' Chaval against the Westphalian landwehr that had been dancing back and forth between line and square in the face of the French horse battery and cavalry. The 12th line was caught in line as well, and unable to form a hasty square and ran. This did however buy time for the Elbe landwehr to form a hasty square and the courage of these plucky Prussians cost the 1st Chasseur's 50% casualties before they fell back. But not before leaving the corpse of General Comte de Pire on the field who had lead the charge on the landwehr.
|The Prussian Right as Pire's Cavalry charge|
|Pire falling to Prussian Landwehr!|
Meanwhile the gunners of the Prussian 6lb and 12lber batterys on the heights were ordered to turn their guns on the charging cavalry. Despite the fact that the French cavalry charged some 990 yards to their current positions it was determined that no fire opportunities were to be had and firing on either regiment and that the meleeing 1st chassuers screened the movements of the 6th Chassuers. Faced with the possibility of their commander firing on his own landwehr to cut down the cavalry, the lieutenants of the battery knocked their captain unconscious with a rolled stack of papers (entitled "the rules") and countermanded the batteries fire orders.
The Prussians slowly began to withdraw and it was determined could make it off the field with their remaining cannon.
The End Results:
The 9th Line was untouched and were veterans able to stand up to the French potentially. The Prussians had 4 batteries intact except for one 6lber destroyed cannon. 75% of the Horse gunners made it off the field, though their 8 cannon were captured. Two battalions of Landwehr remained on the field. Prussian losses were lighter as most of the Landwehr (46% of the deployed Prussian infantry) routed from the field intact.
Estimated Prussian Losses:
840 Green reserves of the 26th Line
60 Horse Artilleryman
8 guns captured; 1 destroyed
Estimated French Losses:
General Comte Pire
General Girard (wounded--would recover)
1020 Crack men of the 11th and 12th Legere
Fun game and great introduction for the Prussians. The Francophiles would say Girard's division gave the new Prussians proper instruction in their future deployments--how to run from the field, fast. The true and honest sons of Germany however can be confident that they traded blows almost one for one against some of the best men Napoleon could offer and secured the retreat of most of I Corps' artillery.
The artillery would come in handy the next day at Ligny and the riflemen now had Girard's number for round two in St. Amand.