For New Years General von Wendt and I got together (after I managed to dodge Rose Parade traffic!) for a nice game of Empire V with an eye towards trying out some close combat mechanics for built-up areas imported from Revolution to Empire, particularly the Savage Street Fight mechanic. Such a test required a proper setting and so we set up for Plancenoit.
The area the table should roughly represent (we ended up using less space than this as the cavalry was omitted).
We had three brigades of Prussians on hand and set up for the initial assault on Plancenoit itself at around 6:30 p.m. The 8x 8 figure battalions of Young Guard (stand-ins as no one has painted Guard yet) occupied the town proper and Lobau's VI Corps (two divisions, 9x 12 figure battalions) took up positions to the North of the village. As we lacked the proper cavalry, and there really wasn't a historical need for it--Domon and Subervie's Divisions stand off against IV and II Corps reserve cavalry to the north of Lobau's defense line, but nothing decisive came of it--we axed the cavalry and the game was played as an infantry combat.
VI Corps deploys in Order Mixted
The Young Guard defending Plancenoit, (the walls are standing in for structures)
The Contest is opened with the Prussian's taking the initiative....
and it is used for a brave charge of landwehr cavalry to their doom.
Not all is going according to Lobau's plan.... chance seems to favor the Prussians this day as opportunities to exploit the close combat victories are missed and the Prussian columns are allowed to regroup and reorganize for another attack.
In Plancenoit Hiller's 16th Brigade finds greater success. The fighting in the village and outbuildings along the Lasne creek is murderous. The Prussians managed to close and gain a foothold in the outer houses. The fighting here would last for an hour and half as both sides continued to feed men into the fight. In the end the two Silesian Landwehr battalions break as they near 50% casualties, but not before they wipe out the I/3rd Tirailleurs (100% casualties) and half of the II/3rd Tirailleurs. The Prussians continue to pour in reinforcements and the remains of the 3rd Tirailleurs likewise run leaving the Southern section of the village in Prussian hands. Colonel Pailhes of 3rd Tirailleurs at one point estimated he lost 480 men in the space of a half our, and caused at least as many casualties amongst the Prussians.
A Silesian Landwehr battalion debouches from the town block in disorder and is immediately charged and routed by the I/3rd Voltigeurs.
The small copse of woods to the Northwest of Plancenoit becomes critical in the French defense. the disciplined fire of the I/1st Voltigeur's has broken up 3 Prussians assaults from the Northwest all while withstanding over 2 hours of artillery fire.
General de Brigade Chartrand believes the Prussians have over extended themselves and are ripe for a counterattack from the woods that could restore the entire defense. There is only one unsupported landwehr battalion preventing an assault from storming the flank of the Prussian battery that has been bombarding the stronghold of the Plancenoit Church and then crashing into the flank of the attack columns preparing to assault the Church.
Chartrand calls up the II/1st Tirailleurs from the reserve and orders the I/1st Tirailleurs to charge home against the single landwehr battalion that is preventing the overextended Prussians from losing their entire attack front.
The Pas de Charge begins and Vive le Emperor! rings out.... the nervous landwehr unleash their volley too soon, the effect minimal... and yet the I/1st Tirailleurs falter--their courage fails them. The elite men of the Imperial Guard lose their nerve to a rabble militia and halt to unleash a ragged volley.
The time is 8:30 p.m.
Lostin's 15th Brigade's losses and fatigue have begun to affect morale and it causes disorder in the ranks as men head for the rear. The brigade has nearly broken itself against the French formations. Bulow orders Lostin to break-off the attack and reform. The French, focused on holding out are not able to pursue. Hake's 13th Brigade (looking surprising a lot like 15th brigade as we only have figures for 3 bdes on the table at once!) is brought up from the reserve to plug the hole and keep up the pressure. In front of Plancenoit Ryssel's 14th Brigade advances to support the assault of 16th brigade. However due to the broken up advance of Hiller's attack, Hiller's right wing, still hung up on the woods, is blocking Ryssel's attack.
Gen. de Brigade Chartand again seizes the initiative and orders the I/1st Tirailleurs to charge the landwehr battalion that is holding Hiller's line together. The moment has not passed, fate could still cover his men in Glory in the Emperor's name! The Pas de Charge again rumbles from the drums.....Vive le Emperor!.... except the men of the I/1st Tirailleurs were not the Young Guard of old... these men clearly did not love the Emperor--he asked so little of them, they had but to scatter farmers in tattered uniforms and second hand muskets and in return the Emperor would give them a place amongst the Elite of his Guard and a chance at immortal glory--but these men never loved the Emperor....
Teutonic courage prevailed. An aura of determination, hatred, and revenge radiated from the men of the III battalion of 1st Silesian Landwehr. This time they kept their discipline, their volley was well placed and a quarter of the front rank of the oncoming French fell to the ground. The I/1st Tirailleurs again faltered....
And then they broke.....
|A view of Honor and Glory... and the I/1st Tirailleurs running in the opposite direction|
The I/3rd Voltigeurs attempted to immediately retake the church, but their assault was broken up by Prussian musketry as they attempted to scale the stone wall surrounding the church. As the shots began to tell, their courage wavered and then broke before they could close with the Prussians.
To the North Lobau was faced with a decision. To the South he saw black flags in the churchyard, which could only mean the Prussians had almost taken the village. He could withdraw one division to support the town or he could attempt to advance and outflank the Prussians.
Having already broken one Prussian brigade and with only 3 landwehr battalions covering the Prussian center, Lobau ordered the Corps to advance.
But all did not go according to plan. In the center the French almost managed to catch the Prussian heavy battery in the flank, but timely moves by Hiller's remaining landwehr cavalry prevented this. The heavy cannons were then turned on the advancing French at close range and the right column of the Order Mixted broke.
On the French left, the charge was met by more rabble in line... but to late did the French see these were not the ragged uniforms of Landwehr, but the Crack troops of the 10th Infantry Regiment (1st Silesian) come to avenge their countrymen that had broken themselves assaulting these Frenchmen only an hour before. A murderous volley rang out and tore through the French formation. The men of Lobau's corps had been under constant assault for the last 4 hours. The casualties had mounted.... and they could go no further. The Prussian volley destroyed the French resolve and the entire brigade broke and ran before they could close.
The French Flight.
|Final Positions--The French hold on the north edge of the village.|