Friday, May 10, 2019

1814 Campaign in a Day: The account of FML Colloredo

The Account of FML Graf Manfredi Colloredo
The Allied Armies of the 6th Coalition liberated the various German principalities in 1813. Now we marched in 1814 to defeat Napoleon and liberate France with a large host.

Feldmarschall Karl-Philipp Schwarzenberg was the commander of the “Allied Army of the South”. He summoned the Council of War and the majority favored Schwarzenberg’s Plan ‘B’.

The goal of Plan ‘B’ was to strike at Paris from the north and south. The main armies would engage the French armies to tie them down and/or defeat them while the flanking corps made their ways around to capture Paris swiftly and end the war. The plan had risks, especially to the flanking corps – but the French “cooperated fully” to make Plan ‘B’ a huge success.

Colloredo’s Orders for Plan ‘B’
Austrian I Armeekorps (Colloredo) moves to La Rotherie/Brienne, following IV Armeekorps (Maneuver order), but determine if a route west to Troyes is available.
    1. If no enemy present at La Rotherie/Brienne, do not follow IV Armeekorps to Vitry (north). Instead, move to Arcis s.Aube (west/northwest).
      1. When you arrive at Arcis s.Aube, report details to Schwarzenberg, Wittgenstein, and Gyulai. Also report if Napoleon is present.
        1. If no enemy at Arcis s.Aube, move to Troyes, attempting to reach Paris by Troyes-Sens-Pont s.Yonne-Montereau-Melun-Paris.
        2. If enemy is present at Arcis s.Aube, attempt to maneuver to exit to Troyes. If the enemy attempts to block this move, attack unless outnumbered 2+:1 and Napoleon is present: Find a good position to fight and await reinforcements.
    2. Otherwise, if French are present at La Rotherie/Brienne, reinforce IV Armeekorps and attack the French.
    3. 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.

Reality Check / Turn 1: As soon as the Allied forces were placed on the table, Schwarzenberg quickly observed that I, III, IV, VI, and G Armeekorps were all on the same table (Table J) and that La Rotherie and Brienne were absent of any French. That simplified the orders of several Austrian commands. Now, based on the original orders, I Armeekorps would proceed to Arcis s.Aube. Of much greater significance, an additional road was present on the table that was not on the campaign map:

This prompted Schwarzenberg to issue new verbal orders:
  1. Austrian I Armeekorps (Colloredo) move from Musey west to what appears to be a road that leads west to Troyes. Determine where this road actually leads to and report any enemy present.
  2. Austrian III Armeekorps (Gyulai) & Russian Grenadier corps (Uvarov) move to Arcis s.Aube (west/northwest). [Replacing I Armeekorps in this role.]
  3. Austro-Russian VI Armeekorps (Wittgenstein) becomes the new Reserve, replacing III Armeekorps. Remain at Musey.

Turn 1 – “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”: Colleredo’s I Armeekorps dutifully accepted the new orders and took the road west from Musey (which Schwarzenberg now called the “Yellow Brick Road”). This proved to be a short-cut to Troyes on Table T. Entering the Deployment Zone on Table T, which was a short distance from Troyes itself, the tail-end of a road-column of French was spotted entering the Deployment Zone north of Troyes (Ney’s corps). The sudden appearance of Colloredo’s command prompted the French to halt and recall the head of the column. If Colleredo could win the initiative, there was room enough to enter and take Troyes and offer battle, but alas, the French won and crowded much of the Deployment Zone. Colleredo looked long and hard, but decided against fighting in what would be the “Twilight Zone” at the edge of the table and reluctantly returned back to Table J.

Upon returned to Table J (Musey) Colloredo prepared his troops to receive Ney’s corps properly, hoping they would accept battle on Table J. Schwarzenberg confirmed this course of action and summoned Wittgenstein’s corps to reinforce Colloredo.

Colloredo’s “reception” was imposing, with two infantry & a battery on a nearby hill, and three infantry and another battery guarding a relatively narrow plain, anchored on the head of a river, presenting no open flanks. Ney would be a fool to come on against this position.

Ney, indeed, followed up. Ney also looked long and hard, itching for the battle (and taking in the enemy dispositions to report to Napoleon), but Ney also, reluctantly, concluded that the enemy position was too strong and not worth fighting in the “Twilight Zone”. Ney turned around and left, going back to Troyes.

Colloredo followed up Ney with his cavalry to see what the French would do next. Ney adopted a similar “reception” for Colloredo, should he wish to return. Colloredo’s cavalry returned to Musey, with Ney’s cavalry following up.

Schwarzenberg could see this pattern repeating all day, so he ordered Wittgenstein to replace Colloredo’s men in the “reception” formation, while Colloredo placed his men in reserve and in road-column to prepare to go north. (The player for Wittgenstein was a “walk-in” and had never played Snappy Nappy. He was given a “crash course” of the rules, but still needed attention and guidance to handle his corps effectively.)

As the cavalry probes continued between Ney and Wittgenstein, Schwarzenberg received a report from Gyulai’s III Armeekorps at Arcis s.Aube asking for reinforcements. Schwarzenberg turned to Colloredo and assigned him a new mission to support Gyulai.

Colloredo’s I Armeekorps was ordered to follow the road the III Armeekorps took to reinforce Gyulai at Arcis s.Aube. This took some time to execute, as Colloredo was still segregating his troops from Wittgenstein’s as the exchange of roles was executed.

Here we come to save the day…
Exiting Table J, Colloredo enters Table B, finding Gyulai in the process of engaging Ney’s command. (Wasn’t Ney at Troyes exchanging cavalry probes with Wittgenstein?) Colloredo pondered how Ney was present as his columns advanced along the road to Arcis s.Aube from the east. A new French command (Durette) appeared at the Deployment Zone north of Arcis s.Aube.

Gyulai was having a rough time against Ney, losing some Austrian infantry and artillery in the initial contact. Unperturbed, Russian grenadiers were sent over the bridge to reinforce the Allied force already across. Ney’s command was fully deployed and presented a longer battleline, threatening to wrap around both flanks of Gyulai’s still-deploying advance guard. From Colloredo’s point of view, it appeared foolish of Gyulai to funnel his men across a single bridge so close to the already formed French battleline – but the circumstances must have looked more promising before Colloredo arrived, or Ney may have just showed up just as Gyulai had started to cross the bridge south to attempt to get to Troyes along the original plan of advance. Either way, Gyulai needed help fast.

Schwarzenberg had, providentially, attached the pontoon bridge train to Colloredo’s column. Now its purpose was clear: set-up a new bridge over the river to get some units across and threaten Ney’s right flank. Colloredo’s artillery quickly raced down the turnpike to set-up near Gyulai’s remaining artillery unit and poured some fire upon Ney’s infantry holding the right flank, driving it back.

Ney was still driving off Austrians and Russians, causing havoc as the fleeing units burst through new formations trying to cross the bridge, causing additional Morale Checks. Colloredo started looking over the battlefield very carefully, wondering if it might be wiser to pull back. Gyulai still attacked, despite the losses, emboldened now that another Austrian command was present. All Colloredo could do was provide the artillery support from behind the river, until the pontoon bridge was built. Durette deployed his entire command in line, advancing slowly, and his artillery was still behind the woods. (It’s going to take 3-4 turns before Durette can even become a real threat if he keeps that pace. That’s plenty of time to reach Arcis s.Aube and deploy to block the road and pass between the woods and use my cavalry to counter the French cavalry and threaten each flank.) Colloredo concluded that the fight must be fought here, Ney could be checked and beaten in time before Durette could mount any serious pressure.

The pontoon bridge was assembled swiftly as umpire Russ supervised my attempt to assemble it and soon Wurzburg IR 23 was across to threaten Ney’s right flank. Ney anticipated this move and committed his 15th Hussars to run down the unwelcome Austrians, but they neatly formed Square and sent the Hussars fleeing.

More French appeared: Napoleon’s Imperial Guard! (Napoleon, Ney, and another French command against Gyulai, Uvarov’s Grenadier corps, and Colloredo’s command. This could turn out to be a really big battle.) Napoleon’s troops were near a corner of a table that had no road connection to Arcis s.Aube, so it would take quite some time before the Imperial Guard could get engaged, unless it risked committed the cavalry first, alone. (Let’s see what happens. This is really getting interesting. Even if we can’t defeat them, we can tie them up for quite a while and keep them off of other battlefields.)

Colloredo’s artillery now concentrated on Ney’s artillery. The combined fire from the three Austrian artillery units generated 5 hits and dispersed the French artillery beyond rallying. The momentum was starting to swing and Ney’s command didn’t look so tough anymore. Gyulai and Uvarov continued to commit more infantry and Russian cavalry against Ney.

Durette continued his slow advance. Napoleon stayed in his corner, simply moving the Imperial Guard along the road – simply passing by.

(That’s a surprise: Napoleon apparently isn’t going to join this battle. We should be able to win this battle if the Imperial Guard stays out of it. )

Napoleon does, indeed, pass by, but has detached Mortier with a Hussar unit and a 4 Pdr horse artillery unit to assist in the battle. Though small, this force could influence the battle significantly.

The battle has definitely shifted in favor of the Austrians. Despite the early losses that Gyulai and Uvarov suffered, it become clear that the Austrians have a local advantage in numbers and position. Now it’s Ney that taking losses and must disengage, but Gyulai and Uvarov press hard and Ney gets about half of his command off with the rest badly handled.

Durette has started to attack with his cavalry, but loses both encounters. These reverses, plus witnessing what’s happening to Ney prompts Durette to suspend his advance. Colloredo’s cavalry east of the wood north of Arcis s.Aube pursue the repulsed French cavalry, driving it back further, but Gyulai’s and Colloredo’s cavalry west of the woods must turn to face Mortier’s two Imperial Guard units.

Colloredo & Gyulai agree to take a risk: The Austrian cavalry moves within charge reach of the Imperial Guard units, hoping to win initiative and run down the horse artillery before it unlimbers. The ploy fails and the artillery unlimbers at point blank range while the Hussars move to pistol range to shoot instead of charge. The artillery scores two hits on the Ott Hussars #5, but they only fail one roll and remain in position, while the Prinz Ludwig Uhlans #3 exchanges ineffective fire with the French Guard Hussars. The Austrian cavalry charge during their half of the turn, realizing they will face fire. The Guard artillery scores a hit and the Ott Hussars #5 fail once, but that checks their charge at 1” away. The Prinz Ludwig Uhlans #3 close and narrowly beat the French Guard Hussars, which respond badly to this unexpected reversal and flee the battlefield.

The Uhlans turn to face the Guard artillery, which have lost faith after seeing the Guard Hussars flee the field. The gunners are too nervous to fire effectively and the Uhlans charge them during the Austrian half of the turn, scoring a hit, which the Uhlans don’t seem to notice. The artillery lose the melee and Mortier is killed trying to inspire the men. The artillery is driven off. The Austrians win the following initiative, allowing the Prinz Ludwig Uhlans #3 to run down the dispirited horse artillery before they can flee or set-up their cannon.

The Prinz Albert Cuirassiers #3 and Frimont Hussars #9 disperse Durette’s Chasseurs a Cheval and Dragoons and move to outflank Durette’s battleline, forcing his infantry on his left flank to form squares. Austrian artillery take advantage and start to pound the squares, driving the 83rd Ligne off beyond rallying.

Ney has retreated back to Troyes, while Durette is forced to disengage north to Chalons with less than half his command, leaving a Legere unit as a rearguard in Summersous. The rearguard is overwhelmed while Colleredo sends a mixed force to pursue Durette’s command.

Colloredo pursues Durette to Chalons, where another battle has been ongoing for some time between another French command and Feldmarschall Blucher’s forces. Colloredo enters on the only road left available to the French out of Chalons, trapping both French commands. Both French generals sue for peace, which Blucher accepts. Soon after, news that Paris has fallen reaches Blucher. The war is over! The Allied armies have won.


  1. Very entertaining. Love the grand tactical translating down to individual units action in the battle.

  2. Another absorbing account. I wonder what difference it would have made this the campaign if Napoleon hadn’t simply passed by and had chosen to commit the guard instead.

    1. In this battle - quite a lot. In the broader context... very little. The Battle(s) of Arcis sur Aube were just one of 4 or five major actions, and Paris was the chief Allied objective. Additional narratives to come should help understand the big picture, which, as usual for a Corps commander, I was only vaguely aware of as I was fighting non stop for hours!

    2. Great point Gonsalvo. I too fought all day with little knowledge of what was going on in other areas. I moved from Chalons to Saint Merehould then back to Vitry, tying up 3 Russian Corps all day. In the end, my expoits were glorious for the French, but alas a victory does not the war win, and Paris still fell. It was a great day... loads of fun... very tactical on my tables... and strategic across multiple tables.

    3. Which command did you play?

  3. Very entertaining and informative overview, sounds like great fun!
    Best Iain

    1. Glad you enjoyed it; there is quite a bit more to come.