Battle Report: 29th December 1999

Prussian ~vs~ Later French

(Robert Avery ~vs~ Dave Lancaster) .

Prussian

Brigade

Unit

Fig.'s Org. Class Weapons Pts/Fig Points
  CinC 1         100
1st Brigade 2inC 1         50
  Guards 48 4x12 RegA blr 13 664
  Jaegers 48 4x12 LightsB blr 13 664
2nd Brigade 1st Foot 24 2x12 RegC blr 10 260
  2nd Foot 48 4x12 RegC blr 10 520
Cavalry 2inC 1         50
  Cuirassiers 24 4x6 RegA s, armour, blc 17 448
  Uhlans 24 4x6 RegB s, l, p 14 376
  Dragoons 16 4x4 RegB s, blc 16 296
Artillery HA Battery 3 3x1 RegA light blrb HA 118 384
              3812
.

Later French

Brigade

Unit

Fig.'s

Org.

Class

Weapons

Pts/Fig

Points

.

CinC

1

 

 

 

  100
  Imperial Guard 20 5x4 RegA lbl 14 320
1st Battalion 2inC 1         50
  1st Battalion 36 6x6 RegC lbl 11 456
  2nd Battalion 36 6x6 RegC lbl 11 456
  3rd Battalion 36 6x6 RegC lbl 11 456
  Attached Zouaves 36 6x6 LightsB lbl 14 564
Cavalry 2inC 1         50
  Dragoon Guards 12 2x6 RegA s, blc 18 236
  Guides 12 2x6 RegA s, blc 18 236
  Cuirassiers 12 2x6 RegB s, armour, blc 17 224
  Lancers 12 2x6 RegB s, l, p 16 212
Artillery Battery A 2 2x1 RegC light mlsb FA 79 178
  Battery B 3 3x1 RegC mitrailleuse 84 282
              3820
.
. Prussians French
Foot 3360 3280
Horse 1280 960
Guns 6 10
 

Report

The French were hugely outscouted, so set up first. They set up in three main blocks. The right wing consisted of half the cavalry (one squadron from each regiment) on the wing, supporting infantry consisting of three companies from each of the Third and Zouave regiments, and the whole of the Second regiment. The Zouaves skirmished forward as the rest of the infantry advanced in column. On the left wing, the Imperial Guard, two sections of HMG and the rest of the cavalry advanced forward in column, covered by a skirmish screen of the rest of the Zouaves. In the centre, the remaining troops advanced in column, with the artillery placed on a hill at the back.

The Prussians placed their entire cavalry on their left wing, covered initially by a skirmish screen of half the Jaegers, and supported by the 1st Regiment. The cavalry quickly advanced into cover in a sunken road, freeing the Jaegers to skirmish forward.

The right wing consisted of, from the right, the Guards and then the 2nd Regiment: screened by the rest of the Jaegers, and supported by the Horse Artillery. 

As battle joined, the Jaegers, Guards and Horse Artillery of the Prussians doubled forward, immediately bringing the French left wing under fire. One Mitrailleuse was knocked out almost immediately, and the Zouave skirmish screen somewhat damaged before they managed to lie prone. Both sides settled down to exchange skirmish screen fire while they brought up the rest of their infantry, moving slowly in line.

On the left, the French advanced smartly forward behind their skirmish screen towards the waiting Prussians.

Battle proper was joined when the French cavalry on their left decided to try and clear the Jeager skirmish screen by charging them. Unfortunately, the Jaegers were halted, ready to fire, supported by artillery, and were able to repulse the densely packed cavalry column with ease.

The action then switched to the opposite side of the field, where the Prussians decided to try the same thing. Half the entire Prussian cavalry brigade ie two squadrons each of Cuirassiers, Dragoons and Uhlans charged the unfortunate French Zouaves. These were caught moving forward, but elected not to disengage, doubtless encouraged by the performance of the Jaegers moments ago.

Unfortunately, the Zouaves were not as set as the Jaegers, there were less of them, more cavalry, that was not in column and, after taking a few casualties, the Prussian cavalry smashed them from the field. This left the Prussian cavalry, however, under the guns of half of the Third and Second Regiments. They were in line, but had been caught moving (ie CH orders), and had been shaken by the routs across their bows. Nevertheless, they fired, but unfortunately rolled appallingly, and did desultory casualties to the Prussian cavalry. They managed to rout the Dragoons, but were now left at the mercy of the Cuirassiers and Lancers.

Just as the French commander was realising that his right wing was about to collapse (the Jaegers and 1st Regiment were moving up behind the cavalry to finish the job), the Prussian Guards unexpectedly charged his left wing. Over 720 A class Guardsmen charged in line, with their CinC, and swept one HMG, the Zouaves, two squadrons of cavalry and, most importantly, the Imperial Guard (caught moving in column on partial flank – they had been trying to edge around the Prussian flank) from the field.

The French Commander now had both wings collapsing and, in the centre, Prussian Jaegers and the 2nd Regiment were leapfrogging each other and pouring fire into his remaining infantry. With Prussian artillery following up infantry fire, the French could stand no longer, and gradually their whole line collapsed into rout. The Prussian cavalry charged forward into the rear of many of the routing units (one squadron going into each one), and the battle was over! 

Casualties

The Prussians lost 40 Jaegers; 20 artillerymen; 160 Guards; 340 2nd Regiment; 40 Uhlans; 160 Dragoons and 160 Cuirassiers for a total of 920 or 18% of their force!

The French lost 1 HMG; 140 Zouaves (ROT); 80 Dragoons (1 squadron ROT); 60 Lancers (1 squadron ROT); 160 Second Line; 80 First Line; 80 Imperial Guard (ROT); 60 Third Regiment plus had a squadron of Guides and Cuirassiers ROT (at the end of the battle, only the 1st Regiment and the remaining cavalry was unshaken or un-routed) for a total of 740…although the Prussian cavalry were about to horribly decimate most of the infantry!

Results

A crushing victory for the Prussians. 

Analysis

A great battle fought in about four hours.

It was historically accurate in that the French charged forward without consideration for the superior range of their chassepot rifles, and the Prussian did the same. The real damage was done by the bayonet on each side: although the Prussian artillery was a thorn in the French side for the whole battle. If the French had hung back and tried sniping the Prussians, then the Prussians would have had more problems.

Both sides had way too much cavalry proportionately, but the Prussians cavalry charge against the French skirmish line was a sight to see:  32 cavalry figures charging in line (a frontage of 48 cms!), emerging out of a sunken road and sending four half regiments of French infantry into rout before chasing them from the field. Von Bulow is avenged!

Again breechloader-armed, trained skirmishers proved almost impossible to counter except through charges (1-5 saving rolls if lying prone). Although not recorded in the main report, the Prussians had to sacrifice a company of infantry to clear two companies of skirmishing French Zouaves. The French had first fired, and the Prussians therefore routed them, but were largely annihilated by the rest of the French infantry following behind.