Wednesday, May 8, 2019

1814 Campaign in a Day: The account of FM Ignaz Gyulai

We held a very busy, heavily attended Campaign in a Day event at The Portal in Manchester, CT, the last Sunday in April. Daniel B supplied the 15 mm troops, and four of us provided table cloths and terrain, with additional help from some other players (Karl, Brian, and others) setting it all up.This time, rules author, Russ Lockwood, was the GM, and the scenario was based upon the 1814 Campaign in France, "La Patrie in Danger!" In the preface to the Campaign, Russ indicated that the set up assumed that Napoleon's call for a vast mobilization of French manpower was much more successful than it was historically. Still, that would likely mean a lot of Conscripts filling out those extra numbers, and such green troops can melt away under pressure faster than the snow in late winter in France! Russ supplied the following briefing to the allied players:


Blucher and Schwartzenberg could sense the end of the chase that had started after Leipzig. Sheer Allied numerical advantage bundled the French across the Rhine. The two were little inclined to grant peace terms, even if rumblings were heard about that Corsican ogre rebuilding his army yet again and attrition nipped at their own armies as they advanced into France -- Blucher in the general vicinity of Verdun and Schwartzenberg in the general vicinity of Chaumont.
Napoleon, last heard of in Paris, finally managed to retreat his armies fast enough and far enough to break contact with the Prussian, Russian, and Austrian troops. The good news about this lull was that reinforcements could be brought up. The bad news was that the French could be anywhere between the Allies and Paris. Best guess was a protective arc of French around Paris.
Five days of heavy rain turned the generally flat ground into muddy fields and turned the secondary roads into quagmires. The main roads were in passable shape, some more so than others and the sun was drying out the land. So far, the French civilians seemed unmoved to offer any resistance. How long that would last was anyone’s guess, but probably dependent on the depredations of the troops and the fate of combat.
As for the Allies, the ultimate goal was Paris. March down the main boulevards and Napoleon would be finished. Otherwise, keep squeezing the French, capturing more and more ground to deny the ogre the men, taxes, food, and anything else needed to support his armies.
Prussian corps: 6th Russian Corp – Jellacic and Blucher (Verdun); Russian 9th Corp -- Olssuliev (St Mihiel); 10th Russian Corp – Tuchkov (Clarmont); 11th Russian Corp – Lieven (Dun); Prussian 1st Corp – Yorck (Mezieres); 2nd Prussian Corp – Kleist (Shenay).
Austrian corps: Grenadier Corp –Uvarov and Schwartzenberg (Chaumont); 1st Austrian Corp – Colleredo (Musey); 5th Bavarian Corp – Wolfskeel (St. Dizier); 3rd Austrian Corp – Gyulai (Joinville); 4th Wurttenberg Corp – Davidovitch (La Rothiere); 6th Combined Corp – Wittgenstein (Bar Le Duc).

The cast of characters for the Allies was:

* Blucher C-in-C: Greg
* Olssuliev (9th Russian Corp): (tentative) Brian and Jim
* Jellacic (6th Russian Corp): Greg
* Lieven (11th Russian Corp): (tentative) Brian and Jim [I think a walk in took this command]
* Tuchkov (10th Russian Corp): Dan S
* Yorck (1st Prussian Corp): Marty F
* Kleist (2nd Prussian Corp): Karl

* Schwarztenberg C-in-C: Daniel B
* Wolfskeel (5th Bavarian Corp): Alan
* Gyulai (3rd Austrian Corp): Peter A
* Uvarov (Russian Grenadier 'Corp'): Peter A
* Davidovich (4th Wurttemburg Corp): Bob R
* Colleredo (1st Austrian Corp): Daniel B
* Wittgenstein (6th Mixed Corp): Walk in (?)

For a change of pace this time, I was neither a GM nor a C-in-C, but a rank and file player, although with a large and powerful command. of 2 Corps. There are quite a few more reports of this event to come, but as this is my blog, well, I get to go first!  :-)

Report of Feldmarschaleutnant Ignaz Guylai 
To the Aulic Council, Vienna, March 1814

At the request of your excellencies, I have prepared a report of the activities of our 3rd Korps plus the accompanying Russian Grenadier Corps assigned to my command, during the conquest of France this Winter. It is hope that this information will be of use to the Kreigsarchiv and future researchers desiring to understand the maneuvering and fighting that lead at long last to the abdication of the detested Bonaparte.

The Allied commanders held a Council of War shortly after entering French soil, and decided to implement “Plan B”, whereby we would attempt to pin as many French troops as possible in the center, whilst the remaining corps attempted to march on Paris via the Northerly and Southerly routes. The chief risk of this was that Napoleon might be able to shift his forces to defeat each wing in detail. Overall, though it was felt that the Allied advantage in numbers would substantially mitigate that risk, and that the bolder plan stood a bettr chance of decisive results (namely, the fall of Paris). As part of this plan, my 3rd Korps and the attached Russian Grenadier Corps were initially assigned to be the Southern Wing's reserve, stationed at Chaumont. My orders from Feldmarschal Schwartzenberg were as follows:

Austrian III Armeekorps (Gyulai) & Russian Grenadier corps (Raevski) initially will function as a reserve.

If French are reported at Vitry, La Rotherie/Brienne or Arcis s.Aube AND Napoleon is reported present, move to that battlefield to reinforce.

If French are reported at Vitry, St. Dizier, La Rotherie/Brienne or Arcis s.Aube, but Napoleon has not been sited, do not respond unless asked to support.

If summoned to reinforce a battle and Napoleon is not present, use your own discretion.

If La Rotherie/Brienne is reported as captured by the Allies (or no enemy present), move to La Rotherie-Brienne (Maneuver order) and then to Arcis s.Aube to engage any French and open up southern and western routes to Paris.

Conditional Engagement Order: If 50%+ of your command has taken Morale step losses, you may consider disengagement to retreat to >12” away from enemy or another table to execute a Rally Order.

Allied positions at the start of the Campaign; Northern Wing Corps in green, Southern Wing in Red.

Table J at the start of the campaign; my two commands are still on their clipboards, awaiting room to deploy as the other Allied Korps also on the table step off. To the right is Wolfskeel's 5th Bavarian Korps, heading from Joinville towards St. Dizier. Stretched out between Chaumont, Bar sur Aube and Musey is Wittgenstein's mixed 6th Corps, and on the mysterious road to Troyes is Coloredo's 1st Korps.

Close up of my commands - 3rd Korps to the Left, and Uvarov's Russian Grenadier Corps to the Right.

Table Map for Table J (Joinville); my forces were to start at Chaumont. The road from Musey to the Northwest is the famed gelberziegelsteinestrasse (Yellow Brick Road).

My troops sat awaiting their turn to deploy, and then wait (they were after all, the Reserve!). However, Coloredo's move on towards Troyes encountered Ney, and the two forces played cat and mouse for a while. At that point, new orders were given to me in person by Herr FM Schwartzenberg. “You are to advance down the LaRothiere-Brienne road, and proceed onwards towards Arcis sur Aube. From there seek to maneuver West along the Southern route towards Paris.”

My troops have deployed around Chaumont in Reserve, awaiting events and orders.

As will be seen, my forces were of quite high quality, and I took the gist of these orders, in conjunction with my oprevious ones, that I should particularly seek to engage my troops with the enemy's best forces, namely the Old Guard under Bonaparte himself, and the Young Guard under Marshal Ney. That would prevent them from having a major quality advantage over other allied forces, and tie them up, such that their achieving local superiority over qualitatively inferior Allied forces would be forestalled. 

My forces were as set forth below:

Gyulai (+1) III Austrian Corps

Ez. Ludwig IR 8J. Coburg IR 22Reuss IR 18Mitowsk IR 40Ott HussarsHohenlo ChevauKais. Fran Cuirass6lb. Foot Artill.6lb. Foot Artill.
(Vet 6+)(Vet 6+)(Season 7+)(Season 7+)(Elite 5+)(Vet 6+)(Elite 5+)(Vet 6+)(Vet 6+)

Routed (eliminate)Routed (eliminate)Routed (elim)Routed (elim)Routed (elim)Routed (elim)Routed (eliminate)Routed (elim)Routed (eliminate)

Uvarov (+1) Russian Grenadier Corps

Pavlovski GrenadiersBohung LineBarnacki LineMitavski DragoonLieb Cuirasser6lb Horse Artill.
(Guard 4+)(Elite 5+)(Vet 6+)(Elite 5+)(Guard 4+)(Elite 5+)

Routed (eliminate)Routed (eliminate)Routed (eliminate)Routed (eliminate)Routed (eliminate)Routed (eliminate)

Ordered forward, we marched through Bar sur Aube, La Rotheire, and Brienne, and entered Table A, encountering a French rearguard at Lesmont, covering the withdrawal of a French Corps towards the North. Also spotted was a small French command on the road to Planey; I believe this was that of GD Rusca.

Table A; North is to the Left of the map, thus I advanced along the Aube first to Lesmont, and then Arcis sur Aube.

The French Corps appeared to be maneuvering to the Northeast, towards Somersous and Chalons. I sent the Chevaulegers and Cuirassiers off to my right, to threaten the flank of their road columns, and brought up my infantry and artillery to prepare to oust the French from Lesmont. The light wet snow that was falling made visibility difficult at times.

Herr Gott in Himmel, we appear to have stepped in it, Baron”, exclaimed my excitable aide de camp, Tölpel von Wunschtraum. seeing Rusca advance on Planey, with additional troops in support, another body of French troops advancing towards Somersous from the Northwest (? via Frere Champenoise?), and yet another body of French troops moving along the road at the corner of the table, heading from Kaiser knows where to Kaiserin knows where! “We could be in for quite the fight from the outset!”

The French Corps retreats through Somersous and on to Chalons. My 3rd Korps is positioned to annihilate the garrison of Lesmont; 2 batteries at canister range, and two infantry columns poised to shoot and then, if necessary, charge the village, with my cavalry situated to cut off any retreat.

Fool proof, eh? Meanwhile, French Corps #1 continues their withdrawal, seemingly abandoning the garrison to its fate, in the interest of buying time. GD Rusca has advanced through Planey and is approaching Arcis sur Aube, intentions as yet unclear. My boys fire, and drive the French from Lesmont, but their retreat carries them far enough away that they make good their escape, making use of a timely double move. I couldn't win the initiative when I needed once on this snow laden battlefield!

The French Corps I was following makes good its exit towards Chalons, and yet more troops of another uncertain French Corps traverse the mysterious Highway to Somewhere, and Rusca reverses direction, heading back from Planey towards Anglure! The French maneuvers are most perplexing. Seeing this, I direct my men to redeploy in March columns to resume the advance on Arcis sur Aube and points West. The assault on Lesmont has allowed ample time for Uvarov's Grenadier Corps to catch up from behind. My orders are already seeming outdated, as I pen a report to Schwartzenberg advising him of the mysterious French comings and goings!

My troops move through Arcis sur Aube and on towards Planey, following Rusca, who is heavily outnumbered by my combined forces, when yet ANOTHER French Corps appears entering on yet ANOTHER road, this time heading from Troyes towards Arcis sur Aube. At their head is the redoubtable Michel Ney, his graying red hair flowing behind him, and the Young Guard ahead of him.

Given French actions to date, Herr Tölpel suggests to me that the French will most likely pull back yet again, seeing that they are outnumbered 2:1 by my combined forces, and that I have three batteries to his one, and that Coloredo's Corps has now entered the battlefield, although still distant, further lengthening the odds against the Bravest of the Brave and his men. As a result, my men proceed to cross the Aube, with two of my batteries poised to provide longer range support to cover my advance.

This proves to be a serious error, as a combination of French initiative, tactical skill, and audace, coupled with some of the worst die rolling I have managed in years, results in my troops routing every time they suffer a single hit – 5 die rolls, 5 failures, and poof! The White Menace becomes the Flight Penance! The French troops, even the conscripts that filled out the numbers in Ney's commands, are inspired by his leadership, and seem unable to fail even a single morale roll for their part.

Photo kindly supplied by FML Coloredo; I am wearing Austrian black, yellow, and white today!

The results aren't pretty! 2 batteries and 2 infantry brigades are lost. Coloredo has arrived within earshot, shaking his head at the carnage. “Ach du leiber, mann, if you value your blutwurst, build us a bridge over the Aube and threaten Ney's flank! He proceeds to do so, fortunately having the Army's pontoon train in tow. Things look even more grim as a new French force arrives in Somersous, threatening to make a chopped Allied sandwich. To add panic to misery, Bonaparte himself is seen advancing along the Highway to Somewhere. Visibly annoyed at being detained in his maneuvers, he tosses more grief our way by detaching an officer with a guard horse battery and some Guard cavalry!

Fortunately for the Allied cause, for unclear reasons, the new French entry chooses to advance his Corps in a broad, thin Line formation. Between that and the screening woods between my battered forces and his, this practically guarantees us several turns to try to reverse the dire situation. We will need them! I turn my best troops, the Pavlov Guards, to the East to give the new enemy something to think about. Some of Coloredo's infantry and a battery form a line opposing him, and his fine cavalry maneuvers to threaten his flank as well.

Short of infantry and Artillery, Herr Wunschtraum advises that I launch my superb cavalry in charges across the Aube bridge, hoping to catch some Frenchies in line. I once again manage to fail my morale rolls spectacularly, resulting in both units fleeing in Panic back across the river, disrupting my remaining troops. However, Ney's luck is beginning to fade. He launches a long distance charge on the Austrian infantry at the new bridgehead. Made of sterner stuff than my boys, Coloredo's men coolly form square and the charge disintegrates against the wall of white. Maybe what I need is some nice, blue-trousered Hungarians in my ranks?! Our artillery fire manages to batter another French cavalry unit, and drive back an infantry brigade, as well as take out his lone battery. The situation West of the Aube is suddenly looking less grim. On our right, the newcomer's French Dragoons charge some Austrian Cuirassiers, and come out the worst of it in a prolonged exchange of pistol shots and sword thrusts. Finally we send off several cavalry regiments to the North to threaten his other flank, and attempt to deal with the unwelcome visitors of the Garde a Cheval!

Another view of the critical moment of the Battles of Arcis sur Aube.

With his cavalry spent, his artillery gone, and his infantry starting to suffer from the Austrian Guns, Ney decides to make a controlled withdrawal back towards Troyes. It is none too soon for the Allied cause, as the new French Corps is reaching the woods line near Arcis sur Aube. Meanwhile, I decide that the new, speckled brown D10 dice that I have been using (freshly bought at The Portal to replace the large number of solid white, black, and green D10's lost in the Great Historicon Dice Caper), are henceforth to be know as the Scheiss Dice. After all, if I had wanted to roll like Barry, I would have tried to bring him along, LOL!

In better news, I also purchased was a set of replacement for my famous Jalapeno dice (officially Lotus dice, I think – speckled yellow and orange with green numbers), a somewhat gag birthday gift from Barry about 10 years ago. Surprisingly, they usually roll well. After all, “They're HOT”. But I digress...

In einen augenblick, the Wurst has turned (that has been known to happen when you leave them out in the sun for too long, I understand). Ney manages to retreat about half of his original force off the table, my pursuing troops managing to finish off a few cripples, but never getting the initiative at the key moments to make a decisive thrust at his derriere. Coloredo's cavalry has the number of the French horsemen, and defeats them in successive melees, ultimately dispersing them. That French Guard battery and Cavalry unit to the North are a real threat. With one Cavalry Brigade each, Coloredo and I decide to try to defeat the French cavalry, and then try to outflank and destroy the Guard battery. While my Hussars falter, his Uhlans charge home, and their lances wreak havoc among the French cavalry. They are beaten, leaving the battery isolated. Once again failing of the initiative, the cavalry has to do it the hard way, charging into a hail of canister. Evidently the timing of the Guardsmen was off, as the brave Austrians shrugged off their losses and trampled the battery over in two successive charges. With the Northern threat eliminated, Ney withdrawing, and his own cavalry gone, our French visitor begins to advance to the rear.

Having had lots of practice retreating during the long journey home from Moscow, the Prince of the Moskova manages his withdrawal well. Here, a fresh column of Austrian infantry in column prepares to charge a battered Young Guard outfit. All they have to do is withstand the fire of the square as they close... but no! They fail a few morale checks, are driven off, and the next turn the the French form column and move to the rear and the relative safety of the Troyes table. My men need desperately to rally, and are in NO position to pursue into another table and into combat until they do so!

Meanwhile, the Russians of Uvarov's Grenadier corps, along with the rest of Coloredo's Corps are facing off against the remaining Frenchmen... here revealed to be Durette's Corps.

With Coloredo's cavalry to his left, his infantry and mine to his front, and with three batteries opposed to his one, Durette contacts his defensive perimeter, and pulls his men back slowly, preparing to retreat towards Chalons.

Somersous falls to the Allies. Colredo's Korps is largely intact, having suffered only minor losses, and quickly reorganizes to pursue Durette Eastwards towards Chalons. Despite the pounding I have taken, in the later stages of the battle, although many of my units were hard hit, no additional units were destroyed. Thus, I too reorganized, and, alone on Table A, could place my entire commands on Rally orders, fairly quickly restoring my troops back to Firm status.

My two commands now rallied (they look a lot bigger now, don't they?), I ponder for a moment how to proceed. I have not heard a word from Schwartzenberg since my personally delivered orders in the early phase of the Campaign. I decided that, when in doubt, follow your orders. Rumors spreading across the French countryside held that Paris was under attack by our forces. Thus, I resolved to follow the original Southern Route towards Paris, knowing that I might or might not arrive in time to be of assistance. My men and I marched from Planey and towards Troyes, while I sent Wunschtraum in search of some liquid refreshments. I was damnably thirsty after many hours of hard fighting!

My command has entered Table T at Sens, and is marching for Bray, then Nogent, and...

Table T

and then on to Fountainbleu! We were bivouacked there, a day's march or so from Paris, when we learned that Paris had fallen, and Bonaparte had abdicated. This left us free to enjoy the hospitality of the Corsican Ogre's palace. In so doing, I regret to inform your excellencies of the fate of Herr Tölpel, my loyal aide de camp. As it has been said, he loved his drink, and it killed him. He was crushed by a runaway barrel of Chambertin, looted from Bonaparte's own cellars!

Table B...   Paris is thata way!

Respectfully submitted,

FML Ignaz Gyulai, K u. K Heer. 


  1. Participating in one of these events has got to be on any self respecting wargamers bucket list !

    1. My report covers what was in fact a relatively small fraction of the many battles that took place over the course of the event. More on those later.

  2. Peter I absolutely LOVE it when you post these fantastic events. You are a very blessed wargamer to have so many like minded individuals happy to contribute so much to what is so obviously a great day of wargaming. I desperately need to get more details from you on how you organize, fight and conclude this epic days so we can replicate them here in Australia.

    1. I'd be more than happy to assist, Carlo. At present, I have in mind to do the Danube Campaign, April/May 1809 both here and at Historicon in 2020. We could certainly do a version in both hemispheres!

      I'd say the biggest things you need to start are 3-4 guys committed to make it happen, a venue, and a date that works.

    2. Hi Peter - O certainly have them in tow mate. Let me know how best we can contact each other and lets see what we acn put in place across the globe. It would be enormous fun and 1809, as you know, is a favorite of mine.

  3. Another fun day packed full of exciting battles. A sad end for Herr Topel though!

    1. Thanks, Lawrence. Herr Topfel ( = fool in German), was of course a literary device, and as a scapegoat for Gyulai's poor decisions, needed to be conveniently not around in order to give the Aulic Council his own version of events!)

  4. Fascinating battle account, Peter, and another Herculean tack undertaken and accomplished successfully. Well done! The 1814 campaign is an interesting one to study and have fought over this ground from an operation perspective several times using TAHGC's boardgame, Napoleon at Bay. Your planned Danube campaign would be of interest too!

    I would like to hear more about the Great Dice Caper.

    1. There is much more to come, hopefully including some French accounts. This was a small piece of a huge series of actions.

    2. The Great Dice Caper refers to the mysterious disappearance of my dice tackle box at Historicon last year. I am hesitant to say that it was stolen, but no other explanation has appeared. It contained over 100 dice, with at least 12 sets of polyhedral dice and about 30 D10's.

  5. What a great fun event, super write up,I look forward to your Danube Campaign next year!
    Best Iain

    1. Thanks Ian. The Danube is yet a year off... thankfully!

  6. Colour my appetite absolutely whetted...!

    1. Glad to have presented a fine amuse bouche!
      Well, rather more than bite sized, but still... Lots more to come!

  7. Sounds like another amazing campaign weekend Peter! You need to do a book on running these I reckon (hint hint). :)

    1. Thanks, mark. We actually started a project to do just that (realizing that any profit would be pennies per hour, of course), but stalled. Some blog posts might be more likely...

  8. Peter, I see you actually were paying attention in all of my dice rolling classes. Now, if you can replicate the performance in your next game you’ll be eligible for the CRP (Crappy Dice Roller) designation.

    1. I'm never touching those brown dice again! :-)