Last week we finally managed to play my ‘Massena’s Counter-Attack at Wagram’ scenario. We had originally planned to play this scenario at Christmas, but had to cancel due to sickness. This will probably have been our last game for a while, due to the current round of Plague, so it’s a good job that it was a good ‘un…
As usual, the rules are Napoleon’s Battles 4th Edition, which is a ‘grand-tactical’ ruleset, where each unit represents a brigade or large regiment and each model gun represents a battery. the models are all 15mm figures from my own collection and are mostly AB Figures, though Massena’s Carriage is an old model by Old Glory. The Hessian, Badener and Bavarian infantry are all old models by Battle Honours (sculpted by Tony Barton from the days before he started AB Figures).
Above: The opening situation at approximately 10am on 6th July 1809. Massena’s IV Corps has been pulled out of heavy fighting at Aderklaa with the aid of immense fire-support from a grand battery established by the Emperor. It has now been sent directly south with orders to re-take the old battlegrounds of Aspern & Essling and to drive back Klenau’s Austrian VI Korps, thereby eliminating the threat to the lines of communication across the Danube. The Emperor has reinforced IV Corps with St Sulpice’s Cuirassier Division from the Reserve Cavalry Corps, while Durutte’s Division of the Army of Italy and Wrede’s Bavarian Division stand by in reserve. Boudet’s French Division is a short distance south of the battlefield, where it has sheltered behind earthworks, having been repulsed by (and lost its artillery to) Vincent’s Austrians.
Above: The battlefield as it appeared on our table. Looking from East toward the West: The French army is closest to the camera, marching in column toward the village of Essling, with their flank screened by Lasalle’s Light Cavalry Division. Note that this landscape was known as the Marchfeld and consisted of flat, largely featureless farmland on the flood-plain north of the Danube, dotted with villages and criss-crossed with roads and tracks. However, I only had sufficient roads available to portray the main highways and not the network of minor roads that crisscrosses the battlefield. This was quite a contrast to the ‘jungle warfare’ of our last 1809 game – the Battle of Neumarkt!
Above: Another view of the battlefield, looking from the South toward the North: The villages of Aspern (on the left) and Essling (on the right) are nearest the camera. These villages had been the scene of bitter fighting over 21st-22nd May 1809, during Napoleon’s first attempt to establish a bridgehead north of the Danube. The area had been fortified by the Austrians following the French withdrawal to Lobau Island, but these fortifications proved worthless when Napoleon completely outflanked the fortified line on 5th July.
Above: The most advanced outpost of Klenau’s VI Corps is Vécsey’s Brigade of Vincent’s Division, which is formed from the understrength 6th and 7th Grenze Infantry Regiments. They dig themselves into the battered ruins of Essling village, load and cock their muskets and wait for the French to come into range…
Above: The rest of Vincent’s Division is clustered around the village of Aspern. Wallmoden’s Brigade (formed from the 6th & 7th Hussar Regiments), supported by a 6pdr cavalry battery, moves out to challenge Lasalle’s cavalry, while Mariassy’s Freikorps Brigade digs into the ruins of Aspern village.
Above: On Vincent’s left and forming the centre of VI Korps is Vukassovich’s Division which is formed entirely of Hungarian infantry regiments. Splényi’s Brigade (the larger unit with the white flag) is formed of the 31st and 51st Regiments, while Hoffmeister’s Brigade is formed from the 39th and 60th Regiments (these have been split into two separate units). Klenau has also assigned the corps 12pdr position battery to Kottulinsky’s command.
Above: On Klenau’s left is Hohenfeld’s Division. This weak division consists only of one brigade (Adler’s), but for game purposes has been split into the line infantry element (14th & 59th Regiments) and the Landwehr element. This line looks very thin…
Above: Guarding Klenau’s left flank is St Julien’s Division of Kollowrat’s III Korps. Here on the right is part of Lilienberg’s Brigade (1st and 23rd Regiments), while the rest of Lilienberg’s Brigade (12th Regiment) forms the second line. On the left is Bieber’s Brigade (20th and 28th Regiments). The division has been reinforced by the 2nd Uhlans, a 6pdr cavalry battery, a 12pdr position battery and by Wratislaw’s Bohemian Landwehr Brigade, which is holding the village of Breitenlee.
Above: Marshal Masséna had been wounded at Aspern-Essling and is still unable to ride a horse. So at Wagram he’s roaming the battlefield in a very conspicuous white phaeton, drawn by white horses! This is a very old model by Old Glory that originally included four horses and a driver, though these seem to have disappeared somewhere along the way. In game terms he moves at the rate of a supply wagon (18 inches, which is half the normal speed of a general at 36 inches) and needs to perform wheeling manoeuvres, whereas generals may normally move at will in any direction without having to wheel.
Above: Screening IV Corps’ march is Lasalle’s Light Cavalry Division, which normally consists of two brigades (Piré’s and Bruyère’s), but on this occasion has been reinforced by the addition of Marulaz’s IV Corps Cavalry Brigade. Marulaz’s Brigade is an interesting mix of the French 23rd Chasseurs, Bavarian 1st Chevauxlegers, Hessen-Darmstadt Chevauxlegers and Baden Light Dragoons; here represented by the Baden Light Dragoons, resplendent in their sky-blue coats.
Above: On the opposite side of the column is St Suplice’s Cuirassier Division, consisting of the Cuirassier brigades of Fiteau and Guiton, plus an 8pdr horse battery.
Above: At the head of IV Corps is Legrand’s Division, consisting of Ledru’s French Brigade (some sources state that Friedrichs was in command of this brigade), the 1st and 2nd Baden Infantry Regiments, belonging to Neuenstein’s Brigade and French and Baden 6pdr horse artillery.
Above: Another view of Legrand’s Division, better showing the Baden 1st Regiment (red facings, mostly-yellow flag), 2nd Regiment (yellow facings, crimson flag) and Baden artillery (grey gun and Bavarian-style uniforms).
Above: As they close on Essling, Ledru’s Brigade, the 2nd Baden Regiment and the French artillery deploy for the assault as Vécsey’s Grenzer pepper them with long-range fire.
Above: The rest of IV Corps turns to the right and advances on Breitenfeld. Nearest the camera is Molitor’s Division (Leguay’s & Viviez’s Brigades). In the centre is Schinner’s Hessen-Darmstadt Contingent (the Leibgarde Regiment and Leib Infantry Regiment) and on the left of the line is Carra St Cyr’s Division (Cosson’s and Dalesme’s Brigades). Molitor and St Cyr each have a 6pdr horse battery under command, while Molitor has been given the two corps reserve 12pdr batteries (one of which is just visible at the bottom of the picture).
All six of these brigades have already suffered casualties during the fighting at Aderklaa and this is determined by the roll of 1D4 for each brigade, equating to that many figures being removed at the start of the game: Leguay’s Brigade nearest the camera lost 2 (indicated by the marker), Viviez’s Brigade lost 4 (a whole base removed), the Leibgarde lost 1, the Leibregiment 4, Dalesme lost 3 and Cosson 4; a high rate of loss (18 of a possible maximum of 24) before the game even started.
Above: At Aspern, Lasalle’s French Light Cavalry advance to threaten the Austrian right flank and cut Vécsey’s detachment off from any support. The challenge is met by Wallmoden’s hussars, who charge the nearest French cavalry brigade (Bruyère’s). However, Wallmoden soon finds that he has bitten off more than he can chew and his hussars are soon fleeing for the safety of Kottulinsky’s Hungarian infantry lines. It’s now Bruyère’s turn to lose control of his men, as they launch a ragged charge against the isolated cavalry battery front of Aspern. Canister fire shreds Bruyère’s Chasseurs, but they charge home and sabre the gunners. However, further losses are suffered to skirmisher fire from Aspern village and Bruyère is soon forced to order his men to flee for the safety of their own lines!
Above: An overview of the initial clashes. In the foreground, St Julien’s 12pdr battery has started engaging the advancing enemy infantry, while in the distance the cavalry of both sides retire to lick their wounds. The French cavalry has suffered heavier losses, but they have more cavalry to lose, added to which the Austrians have lost one of their precious few artillery batteries.
Above: Meanwhile at Essling, both sides have suffered losses from a desultory exchange of musketry, but the addition of a French battery tips the balance and the Grenzer are soon disordered from the close-range heavy fire. With the Grenzer suppressed by fire, Ledru’s Brigade and the 2nd Baden Regiment launch their assault on Essling. In a gruelling melee, the two sides are initially well-matched.
Above: Bruyère’s battered Chasseurs finally rejoin the ranks of Lassalle’s Division. However, the Austrian 12pdrs have found the range and the Chasseurs are soon rendered hors de combat.
Above: Attritional losses finally force Vécsey’s Grenzer to withdraw from Essling, which they do successfully, falling doggedly back along the causeway road toward Aspern. However, they have suffered heavy losses and the Badeners are hot on their heels! A combination of the Badeners and long-range artillery fire finally breaks the Grenzer.
Above: Another overview of the battle. With the immediate threat coming from Lasalle’s and St Sulpice’s cavalry, Kottulinsky orders his Hungarians to form square. St Sulpice decides to look for easier pickings and wheels his division right, aiming to support the infantry attack on Breitenlee. However, as he passes the left flank of Massena’s line, his two brigades are arranged in column, one behind the other. Spotting this move, the commander of the 2nd Uhlans realises that he might never get a better chance to take on the Cuirassiers… His Uhlans are in line, while the Cuirassiers are in column… Breaking the first brigade will disorder the second brigade behind it… However, it all goes horribly wrong for the Uhlans and re-roll markers fail to rectify the situation as the brave Uhlans are routed…
Above: With the Uhlans’ brazen charge routed, Guiton manages to retain control of his Cuirassiers and launches a charge at the nearest Austrian infantry unit (Bieber’s Brigade). Thankfully for the Austrians, Bieber is able to form square and the supporting 12pdr battery quickly slews its guns around to engage the approaching Cuirassiers. The Cuirassiers are beaten off with heavy casualties and fall back to lick their wounds…
Above: Bieber’s jubilation is short-lived as the Hessian Leibgarde Regiment launches a charge on his squares. The Austrian whitecoats are unable to reform their lines in time and are quickly routed, taking the 12pdr gunners with them! St Julien can only watch in horror as his division starts to disintegrate.
Above: The 12th Regiment wheels left to engage the Hessians, but on their left the rest of Lilienberg’s Brigade is routed by concentrated French 12pdr fire! Once again, the Austrian gunners are swept away with the fleeing Austrian infantry. St Julien and the 12th Regiment now find themselves fighting on alone against the massed guns and infantry of Molitor’s Frenchmen and Schinner’s Hessians. The Bohemian Landwehr holding Breitenlee look on nervously…
Above: Behind Breitenlee, a panicked mass of fugitives is streaming back down the Vienna Road. Klenau himself gallops over to rally them. Thankfully, the 2nd Uhlans and Lilienberg’s Brigade react instantly to his entreaties, though Bieber’s Brigade stubbornly refuse to pick up their arms.
Above: Back at Breitenlee, Molitor’s infantry make short work of the Austrian 12th Regiment and along with Schinner’s Hessians, they start to put pressure on the Bohemian Landwehr, who quickly crumble. In the distance, St Cyr’s Division is directed to engage Hohenfeld’s Division in the centre of the plain. Adler’s Brigade is quickly routed and Hohenfeld rides to steady the Landwehr, who are now lined up in St Cyr’s sights.
Above: With Lilienberg, the Uhlans and the 12th Infantry Regiment rallied, St Julien leads his weary division forward again. However, Klenau is still trying to rally Bieber’s Brigade and they’ve now been joined by Adler’s Brigade from Hohenfeld’s Division. Adler however, quickly rallies.
Above: St Julien’s counter-attack is too late for the Bohemian Landwehr, who are thrown from Breitnlee at bayonet-point by the Hessian Leibgarde and scattered to the winds.
Above: In the centre, St Cyr’s Division comprehensively routs Hohenfeld’s Landwehr who flee to Hirchstatten. Tragically, Hohenfeld is mortally wounded in the melee. He is swept along to Hirchstatten by the routing Landwehr, but soon succumbs to his wounds. His second-in-command, Generalmajor Von Ersatz takes command of the division and rides to bring Adler’s Brigade back into the fight.
In the distance, General Legrand’s Division has been slow to exploit its success at Essling and is still some way from launching an assault on Aspern. This is largely due to Masséna concentrating his attention on the assault on Breitenlee. However, a strange lull now falls on the battlefield as Masséna turns his carriage around to go and find Durutte’s and Wrede’s reserve divisions, who are resolutely remaining stationary at Raasdorf. Unfortunately, the bulk of Masséna’s divisional commanders now take this opportunity to light up a Galloise and get the kettle on…
Above: St Julien takes some small measure of comfort as the Hessian Leibregiment (already badly weakened by earlier combat at Aderklaa) is destroyed by his counter-attack. However, they take losses from the vengeful Leibgarde, which has established itself firmly behind the walls of Breitenlee.
Above: In a desperate attempt to delay the French advance, the 2nd Uhlans launch themselves at Cosson’s Brigade of St Cyr’s Division. Sadly for the Austrian horsemen, the French infantry form square and repulse the unfortunate Uhlans once again.
Above: Fiteau’s Cuirassiers extract supreme vengeance for the destruction of the Hessian Leibregiment as they smash into the Austrian 12th Infantry Regiment. The whitecoats fail to form square in time and are routed. Lilienberg’s Brigade finds itself disordered by their fleeing comrades and is milling in disorder as Fiteau’s Cuirassiers complete the destruction of St Julien’s hapless Division.
Above: Guiton’s battered Cuirassier Brigade meanwhile, has a crack at Adler’s rallied Brigade, but this time the whitecoats manage to form square and Guiton retires in disorder.
Above: Meanwhile at Aspern, Legrand’s Division finally throws itself at the walls of the village. However, over-confidence is Legrand’s undoing, as Mariassy’s Freikorps are made of stern stuff and easily repel the French and Baden infantry. Lasalle meanwhile, attempts to insert his division through the gap between Aspern and Kottulinsky’s Hungarian squares in an attempt to take on Wallmoden’s Hussars, though his horsemen are shot to pieces by flanking fire, resulting in Piré’s Brigade being routed and Marulaz becoming disordered. Kottulinsky’s 12pdr gunners meanwhile, finally manage to hit something as they silence the French horse batteries harassing the Hungarian squares.
Above: With Guiton’s Cuirassiers disordered, the 2nd Uhlans launch yet another charge against them, yet with no more luck than the previous two attempts! The unlucky Uhlans are this time driven from the field, along with the rest of St Julien’s Division.
With his left wing completely collapsed and with two infantry divisions approaching from Raasdorf, Klenau decides that now is the time for his corps to break contact and save themselves to fight another day…
My thanks to Phil, Andy and Rhys at the Carmarthen Old Guard for a great game! Let’s hope that it’s not too long before we’re able to have another one…