Battle Report: 20th November 1999

1859 Austrians ~vs~ 1859 French

(Robert Avery ~vs~ Rupert Avery) .

1859 Austrians

Brigade

Unit

Fig.'s Org. Class Weapons Pts/Fig Points
  CinC 1         100
1st Brigade Attached Jaegers 32 4x8 LightsB mlr 12 424
   1st (Grenadier) Battalion 32 4x8 RegB mlr 11 392
  2nd (Fusilier) Battalion 42 6x7 RegC mlr 9 438
  3rd (Fusilier) Battalion 42 6x7 RegC mlr 9 438
Cavalry Uhlans 14 2x7 RegB l, s, p 16 244
Artillery Battery 3 3x1 RegB light mlsb FA 73 259
              2295
.

1859 French

Brigade

Unit

Fig.'s

Org.

Class

Weapons

Pts/Fig

Points

.

CinC

1

 

 

 

  100
  Imperial Guard 16 4x4 RegA mlr 12 232
1st Regiment 1st Battalion 36 6x6 RegC mlr 9 384
  2nd Battalion 36 6x6 RegC mlr 9 384
  3rd Battalion 36 6x6 RegC mlr 9 384
  Attached Zouaves 36 6x6 RegC mlr 9 384
Cavalry Cuirassiers 12 2x6 RegB s, armour, mlc 16 212
Artillery Battery 3 3x1 RegC light mlrb FA 79 267
              2347
.
. Austrians French
Foot 2960 3200
Horse 280 240
Guns 6 6
 

Report

The battlefield, somewhere in the Po Valley, was largely flat, but covered with newly ploughed, wet and muddy fields. The only interesting features were single, large hills on each sides base line, and a thick wood in the centre of the field on the Austrian right/French left.

Neither side outscouted, so set up simultaneously. The Austrians placed their CinC, the Grenadiers, a section of artillery and a squadron of Uhlans far on their right flank. The main body of the two Fusilier battalions set up in double line in the centre, with the Jaegers ready to skirmish forward on the left, supported by another section of artillery.

The French set up in a long line running, from their right, Zouaves; artillery; 3ieme Bttn; Imperial Guard; 1ieme Bttn; 2ieme Bttn. One squadron of Cuirassiers was in the centre, the other positioned out on the far left.

Battle commenced with both sides advancing strongly. In the centre, the two main lines advanced slowly towards each other: the muddy fields impeding progress. On the Austrian left, half the Austrian Jaegers sprinted forward into skirmish formation, almost immediately bringing the French Zouaves under fire. On the Austrian right, the Austrian CinC’s force advanced quickly towards the thick woods: with the French matching this movement by bringing their far-left Cuirassiers forward and supporting them with the 2ieme Bttn.

Artillery-wise, the Austrians began peppering the French 3ieme Bttn with all three of their sections: one of which had moved forward with the Jaegers. The French, on the other hand, chose counter-battery fire. This proved horribly unsuccessful as, for the next 45 minutes, all six French guns tried with no result to silence the Austrian guns. This proved quite crucial: as it meant that the Austrians suffered no casualties from artillery for most of the battle.

On the Austrian right, the Uhlans and French Cuirassiers charged each other. The Cuirassiers won the impact and a dreadful melee occurred. Although the Cuirassiers quickly routed the Austrian lancers off the table, they were, in turn, destroyed by some close range Austrian artillery fire.

In the wood, both sides could see each other through the thick trees. The Austrian CinC ordered his Grenadiers to charge, but had underestimated just how thick the trees were. His men stopped short some 80 yards from the French! The French opened fire but, fortunately, the Austrians were somewhat protected by the very trees that had impeded their progress. Under heavy French fire, the Grenadiers formed line, and a fierce firefight developed: with the trees taking more casualties than the men!

Meanwhile, on the Austrian left, the Jaegers had now got themselves into a position where lines of Jaegers could leapfrog each other: constantly keeping the Zouaves under fire. Although the Zouaves bravely withstood this treatment for some half an hour, their return fire proved ineffectual: as the skirmish-trained Jaegers proved very difficult to hit.

As the Zouaves began to crumble, so did the French 3 ieme  Battalion: which had now been under constant artillery fire for almost 90 minutes. It routed, taking the Zouaves with them, and leaving a huge hole in the French line.

By this time, the main Austrian battleline was approaching (the French line had stopped because of the two Austrian flanking moves: if they moved forward the Jaegers would have outflanked their right, and there was also the danger from the Austrian Grenadiers in the woods on their left) and starting to bring the Imperial Guard and 1iere Bttn under fire.

With no 3 ieme   Bttn to shoot at any more, the Austrian artillery switched its attentions to the Imperial Guard which, suffering casualties from shot and shell, eventually broke as well.

With three of his four infantry battalions routed, along with his artillery, carried away by the Zouaves, the French CinC accepted defeat. His only consolation was that the Austrian CinC did not live to enjoy the fruits of his victory: he suffered a spectacular death right at the end of the battle!

Casualties

The Austrians lost 160 Jaegers; 240 Grenadiers; and 80 Uhlans: for a total of 480.

The French lost 160 Imperial Guard; 80 1iere Bttn; 60 2ieme Bttn; 200 3ieme Bttn; 200 Zoauves and 100 Cuirassiers for a total of  800.

Results

A win for the Austrians.

Analysis

A good battle played over about 3 hours.

The French were somewhat unlucky at the beginning of the battle: by rights their counter-battery fire should have taken out the Austrian artillery. The fact that it didn’t was to prove crucial: as the Austrian artillery contributed muchly to the French defeat. The Austrian skirmishers also proved incredibly difficult to hit: not taking any casualties until at least half-way through the battle.

However, if there was one moment that perhaps the French could have played better, it was the moment when the Austrian Grenadiers were disordered in the woods. If, instead of firing (which would have worked in open terrain) the French had charged, then the Austrians would probably have broken and fled (they would have counted as under partial flank fire and disordered). This would have enabled the French battalion to appear on the Austrian flank and put an entirely different perspective on the battle.