Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Battle of Sezanne 24th February 1814

Our 1814 campaign is now in its 10th turn and the allied forces are pushing towards Paris.  The French have fought and won several battles, each of which has seen the French attacking isolated formations and then moving away before the allies can bring their superior numbers to bear.

The latest battle saw the French attack through the centre (see the 1814 campaign page) against the Autro-Russians at Sezanne.  The allies had 31,000 troops and over 150 guns but were badly short of cavalry in those totals, barely 1500 Austrian Dragoons and Chevaux Legere of the III Corps.  The large allied cavalry formations were situated in areas either side of Sezanne and while this ensured that the armies flanks were secure the lack of mounted troops on the battlefield meant the allied defence would be severly hampered.

Allied deployment behind the Grand Morin.
On the other hand the French had various formations converging on the town of Sezanne, they started by having slightly fewer men on the battlefield with 30,000 infantry and only 46 guns.   Napoleon was expecting plenty of formations throughout the day, including the Guard infantry, cavalry and artillery who had forced marched to the battle.
French attack on the far flank Austrian cavalry trying to delay the attack.
The battle began at 12.00 noon with an immediate attack by the French left flank, the allies threw forward their only cavalry in an attempt to delay the French and force them to deploy early.  It achieved its aim and the French deployed their guns and some of Charpentiers 7th Young Guard Division to face off the cavalry.  However, Colberts Guard cavalry division had arrived and pushed ahead to the Grand Morin stream.


French flank attack reaches the stream.
Throughout the last few campaign turns there has been bad weather and heavy rain, this has reduced the amount of movement points available to formations and, unknown to the French, flood waters turned the Grand Morin stream into a major obstacle.  As soon as the Guard cavalry reached the stream they found that it would not simply be a slight reduction in their movement but a full turn to cross from one side to the other.  Unfortunately this happened to be directly below the 36 guns of the Russian 11th Corps.  Under withering fire the cavalry crossed the stream and launched themselves at the gun line.
The charge of the French Guard cavalry

Stoutly defending their guns the Russian artillery took a heavy toll on the attackers.  The Empress Dragoons took crippling losses from defensive fire, the survivors scattering back across the stream.  The Grenadiers and Chasseurs a Cheval were made of sterner stuff and even though they suffered horrendous casualties the gun line was overrun.  With the French across the stream and more troops arriving the situation was starting to look grim for the allied defence.  And then the Old Guard infantry and artillery arrived...
Forced marching to the battlefield, so fast they look almost blurred...

Once the Guard artillery started to deploy and bombard the allied centre the casualties started to mount and Schwarzenberg started to need army morale rolls to remain on the field.  The rules used a cut down version of March Attack and the army morale kicks in at 30% losses in infantry and cavalry units.  Army commanders need to pass tests or the army is forced to retreat, the commander ability adds to his chance to pass and also allows a number of 'free' failures.
The French Guard attack the allied centre.

Allied centre at 3.30pm after the right flank has crumbled.  1866 Austrian stand-ins for Gyulai's III Corps!

By 3.30 the Russian 11th Corps had all but been destroyed as a fighting formation, the French were beginning to roll up the allied line and the Guard had been ordered forward in the centre to deliver the final crushing blow to the defenders. It was at this point that Schwarzenberg was forced to admit defeat and the Corps commanders were ordered to retreat.

 Another French victory - Vive L'Empereur!