Thursday 30 March 2023

Dawn Attack at Grosshofen @ Wagram – scenario 3 with Soldiers of Napoleon

At dawn on July 6th Rosenburg’s Corps of the Austrian Hauptarmee launched an attack (it was supposed to be part of a general offensive). In command confusion and due to late orders, the others Austrian Corps failed to get going, so Rosenberg’s columns attacked alone. This scenario is for one of those columns attacking at the French held village of Grosshofen, near Marksgrafneusiedl, held by men of Davout’s Corps – Puthod’s division. The Austrian objective is the capture the village and drive the French lines back, the French are just holding the line here, but (scenario special rule) the Austrians will be recalled from the attack after a random number of turns, so to win it, there is time pressure on the attacker otherwise, it peters out into a draw as the Austrians withdraw… (as happened on the day).

My force was the advanced guard and a large (huge and unwieldy) infantry brigade following on. The French had two ‘medium’-sized infantry brigades, one on the left and one on the right, holding the village itself. With the Austrians holding the initiative, we dealt our first hand of action cards and got stuck-in.

Grosshofen. Austrians attacking from the top, where the Russbach stream just curves onto the tabletop. The rest is flat farm fields.

Austrian deployment zones, Advanced Guard at the front (obvs), infantry brigade behind.

First up, my divisional commander, General Radetsky on the day, must have had a bad bratwurst for breakfast, as he was taken ill and left the field on a ‘Commander Wounded’ event. Damn, that left me an action card down, but I sent an instant message to fetch General Rosenberg to the field to replace him with a ‘Senior Officer Arrives’ event, and unfortunate rolled badly and he didn’t show either (maybe he had the bratwurst for breakfast too!). Drat! Bad start, but my infantry moved up, as did the Ferdinand Hussars of the advanced guard on my far right. The French had no cavalry to match them so formed square and targeted them with accurate cannon fire. Still, they rode on through the smoke and shell across the cornfield towards the enemy lines. The French deployed a lot, mostly all, their voltiguers to form a thick skirmish screen ahead of their lines, across the entire board. That forced my infantry to do likewise, although the advanced guard had the 4th Moravian Volunteer Jaegers to do that work, and they closed in on the village first, infantry assault columns behind to follow-up in a push to clear the houses of Grosshofen, which were thick with blue-coated infantry.

Cannons roared and the disruption mounted, especially in Grosshofen, until a handy ‘Stand Fast’ event saw the reserve infantry inside rally. The first turn ended with a draw in VPs.

Next turn, by good luck, I held a ‘Fierce Cavalry Charge’ card, allowing my hussars to have a crack at a French square. In true hussar spirit they launched themselves at the square and won the melee, driving the French back and almost taking their banner (almost!). They rallied, but then a ‘Wavering’ event saw them break, the officer's efforts to regroup the now mob failing. In return, the French artillery gave the hussars a whiff of grapeshot, twice, and they wheeled away to rally and regroup, leaving dead men and horses behind. Bloodied, but they’d be back!

The battle around Grosshofen was full of skirmishers, my jaegers with their rifles doing excellent work and the French largely missing! I knew I couldn’t hang around, but had to pause to rally as the artillery fire was hurting my infantry, and I had to drag my out-ranged 6 pdr guns forwards. This all took cards, and I was still low on them. It was not the swift strike I hoped for. Oh, and Napoleon arrived to have a look over General Puthod’s lines… and all seemed well enough to the Emperor, and he rode off.

Turn 3, and still the withdraw order hadn’t reached the Austrians (quite who they’d tell I have no idea as Radetsky was still up-chucking in a bush). The French rushed a reinforcing reserve battalion into the village, as my jaegers continued a galling rifle fire on the defenders, and my assault column was ordered it, which they refused. Argh! On well, I was at least winning the skirmish fight. My hussars turned about and came back for those guns, charging them and taking revenge for the earlier canister fire, the gunners were cut down or running for their lives, but more skirmish fire again meant I needed to rally them, and lose another stand, leaving just 3 stands of my excellent cavalry left (from 7 to start with). Their fight was done and they withdrew, horses blown, but it had been good work from the Ferdinand hussars on the far right flank. In Grosshofen, one defending French battalion broke and ran after, saving their last rally card, they lost it to a 'command confusion' event… wait too long at your peril! Accurate return artillery fire did break one of my infantry battalion columns. The French scored well in VPs, but the Austrians were still just ahead, thanks to the hussars heroic efforts. Could I get into the village and claim my ‘Take a Strongpoint’ objective. Time was running out. The expected order to withdraw received, I had 1 more turn to break the French or call it a day and take the draw.

So, it was all in at Grosshofen, but my infantry column again refuse to charge, so my jaegers went in and claimed the empty first building – now to fight off the counter-attack as the French reservist piled through the streets and unleashed a ragged volley, to no effect! Phew! My return fire was again good, skirmishing jaegers are excellent at this work! Over on the right, there had been an exchange of skirmish fire and artillery and I now tried to close for the charge. But twice my columns refused to charge and volley fired instead – 4 failed attempts on the trot, argh, no aggressive spirit in these troops! The French then tried to counter charge and also failed, but the resulting volley did break one of my columns. We were down to the last card play each, I used ‘wavering’ again on his disordered column, but rolled a 1, the column did not break this time. He played ‘artillery bombards’ and suddenly shells hammered my poor retreating hussars, scoring enough hits to break them. That was it. Game over.

We added up the VPs. The Austrians had taken a 'strongpoint' and gained the maximum 6 VPs, which left the French 2 from breaking. In return, the Austrians were broken though, the costly loss of the hussars had cost us 5 VPs and so the French VP total was 22, over the Austrian Break Point of 20… time to give up on Grosshofen. Another marginal French win then, and again 0 Campaign VPs for that, so after three scenario it is still, remarkably 0-0. Maybe in scenario 4 (which will be the French’s first assault on Aderklaa, a mighty scrap in the centre), someone will actually gain some VPs towards winning this day's battle.

Quick game this one. Only 2 brigades aside, 4 turns and 2.5 hours of playing. Fun 2.5 hours though… if only my hussars had survived… damn those French gunners (they are usually alarmingly accurate). My own artillery was utter rubbish this game, barely hit a thing… on to Aderklaa in a few weeks.

Austrians deployed in attack columns, ready to begin...

The French lines deployed to hold Grosshofen. Gunners are ready, with their usual horrible accuracy.

A lot of voltiguers deployed to harass the Austria advance.

The Ferdinand Hussars after their fierce charge, and shattering a square!

Reserve French battalion marching into Grosshofen.

Bonjour L'Empereur... the biggest boss came to check-up that the line was holding, no need to send in the Imperial Guard here...

Austrian columns come on, in a very French sort of way...

Moravian Jaegers skirmish and volley into Grosshofen, before dash for the first cottages. Infantry column behind, the refuseniks... leave it to the jaegers then boys!...

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