Wednesday 5 September 2018

Battle of Starsiedel (Lützen) 1813

Sunday morning and I travelled over to Posties shed-o-war expecting to meet up with several members of the Rejects for our usual large scale battle. However when I arrived I was told only two of us were able to play so we had a rare one on one battle. My opponent was Surjit and Postie had set up a Napoleonic battle set in 1813 during the War of the Sixth Coalition. As usual we picked our sides randomly and I got the French while Surjit had a mixed force of Prussians and Russians. 

Postie decided to play out part of the Battle of Lützen in which Napoleon attempted to halt the advances of the Sixth Coalition. The French invasion of Russia had resulted in a disastrous campaign and the loss of much of his veteran army. Following this the enemies of imperial France felt emboldened and quickly raised a new Coalition against Napoleon. In response the Emperor assembled an army of just over 200,000 men, the majority of which were untrained and inexperienced. There was also a chronic shortage of horses and therefore of cavalry. Napoleon was non-the-less confident he could neutralise the threat to his authority by acting quickly. 

Order of Battle
French - IV Corp c/o Count Betrand
12th Division c/o Count Morand
   1st Brigade c/o Bellair
      3rd Provisional Legere Rgt
      13th Line
      Light Gun Battery
   2nd Brigade c/o Nagle
      2nd Provisional Illynian Rgt
      23rd Line
      Light Gun Battery
Guard Cavalry c/o Lefenbure Desnoettes.
   Guard Division c/o Walther
   1st Brigade c/o Ornance   
      2nd Lancers (Dutch)
      Chasseurs 'a' cheval
      Gendarmes d'elite (1 Squadron)
   2nd Brigade c/o Letat
      1st Lancers (Polish)
      Grenadiers 'a' cheval

Prussian - 1st Army Corps c/o General von Blucher
Upper Silesian Brigade c/o General Major von Ziethen
   Infantry c/o Oberst von Pirch
      1st Silesian Infantry Regiment (3 companies)
      2nd Silesian Infatry Regiment (2 companies)
      Silesian Grenadier Battalion (1 company)
      Silesian Schutzen Battalion (2 companies)
      2x Light Gun Batteries
   Cavalry c/o Major Laroche von Starkenfels
      Neumark Dragoons
      1st Silesian Hussars
      2nd Silesian Hussars
      Horse Artillery Battery
   Reserve Cavalry c/o Oberst von Dolffs
   3rd RCB c/o Oberst von Werner
      RCB 3 Garde du Corps
      Horse Artillery Battery
  4th RCB c/o Oberst von Jurgess
      RCB 4 Silesian Curassiers
      East Prussian Curassiers
      Brandenburg Curassiers
      Horse Artillery Battery

Russians - 1st Russian Cavalry Division c/o Mj-Gen Depneradouvich
   2nd Brigade c/o Von Rosen
      Empress Curassiers Guard
      Empress Curassiers Guard
   3rd Brigade c/o Grekov
      Astrakhan Curassiers
      Ekaterinoslav Curassiers

First off lets start with a picture to show the setup. I've tried to label the various Brigades but if the text is too small to read on your screen just click the picture to enlarge.

Not a good position for the French. I felt from the beginning that the infantry was too vulnerable given the Prussian superiority in cavalry and guns. The cavalry in particular could threaten both flanks of my Infantry Division virtually unhindered. 

The Prussian Cavalry move forward giving me a chance to initiate a charge along my whole line. My plan (such as it was) was to do enough damage here to keep his reserves - and their Russian allies - occupied and therefore away from my infantry.

In the meantime my 1st infantry brigade moved forward behind a skirmish screen. One Battery and an infantry regiment turn towards the threat of the Prussian reserve Cavalry to protect my right flank. 

The whole table showing these opening moves. The left flank on my infantry is completely open to a wide flat plain...ideal for enemy cavalry!

My Columns continue to move towards the Prussians. Meanwhile I have decided the threat from the Prussian reserve cavalry (top right, turning around the forest) needs another square to hold them. What I didn't anticipate was how vulnerable this made me to infantry assault. 

Two squares and a Battery should be enough...but while I'm looking at the left hook I'm about to get clobbered on the right.

Meanwhile a massive cavalry battle is raging. Despite having Guard regiments my dice rolling was predictably poor and the end result was less than clear. I manage to kill all but one of the attached Prussian commanders but they capture four of my regimental colours! 

I sweep away his horse artillery and send a Prussian unit into rout but the other melee's are less clear. The only good thing is I am able to keep my regiments in relatively good order. However with my Cavalry Division largely contained the Prussian commander feels able to allow Grekov to take one of the Russian Cuirassier regiments off to harass my exposed infantry in the centre. 

The Prussian infantry advances in column pushing back my skirmish screen, then they open fire and I start to take a few casualties. Suddenly my square doesn't look so strong as I realise how vulnerable it now is to a charge from the Prussian infantry. 

Those pesky Russians see an opportunity and take it. The charge of the Ekaterinoslav Cuirassiers into the flank of the French Infantry is a potentially game winning move. Simultaneously one of the Prussian Infantry columns has hit my first square. I'm in big trouble.  

Two vital melee now take place. I'm at a disadvantage entirely of my own making in both battles and now all I can do is hope the dice goods look favourably upon me...

Maybe not! Predictably the infantry charged by the Russian Cuirassiers are sent packing. One column runs as soon as it is charged and the remaining column that stands and fights has been decimated and forced to pull back. The Russian cavalry however pursue and wipe them out. Meanwhile the Prussian column defeats my Square sending them routing back through the French lines. The column then continues and takes out my gun battery. A disastrous turn by anyone's definition. My one ray of hope is that I have sent two Prussian infantry regiments into rout giving me a little breathing room. 

The Russian Cuirassiers continue to scythe through my troops and with the square and cannon on on my right flank the Prussian Reserve Cavalry under von Jurgass begin to advance. 

Meanwhile my remaining Cavalry have been effectively wiped out as the Prussian reserves mean they are able to 'double up' and flank some of my regiments. Napoleon will not be pleased when he hears I have lost his Guard Cavalry! 

The Ekaterinoslav Cuirassiers boldly advance! 

As do the Reserve Cavalry under von Jurgass

The light is fading but I have already decided my position is hopeless so we end the game. Postie insists on working out the victory points and I brace myself for the pain!

When thinking about my plan the phrase “unmitigated disaster” comes to mind. Posties set up the table historically but frankly it was a terrible position for the French who had the biggest tactical challenge from the very beginning. All my infantry was clustered in the centre across from the much smaller Prussian infantry but both my flanks were horribly exposed to the numerically superior Prussian and Russian cavalry. I could see the danger and recognised that the enemy were in a perfect position to encircle my troops, but I still put my head in the lion’s mouth! 

A well deserved victory!
Maybe it’s worth explaining why I felt it necessary to spring my enemies trap for them. On my right I had three enemy cavalry units and nothing to stop them. I had no cavalry here and all I could hope to do was block their inevitable attack with an artillery battery and a couple of infantry squares. I hoped this would keep them at bay long enough for my still superior infantry force to smash into the Prussian infantry. On the left flank of my infantry however there was a large open plain which begged the Russian cavalry to turn into my flank...and I failed utterly to do anything about this. Meanwhile my Cavalry Division (way off on the far left of the battlefield) were facing off against a superior force of French and Russians. My only hope here was that my Guard Cavalry could neutralise Prussian cavalry units quickly enough to draw in their reserves, keeping those reserves from attacking my infantry in the centre. Here my plan sort of worked, most of the reserves did indeed stay to fight my cavalry division but they still had enough spare regiments they could divert two Cuirassier regiments towards the centre and attack my infantry's exposed left flank. 

By the end of turn one I should have recognised the danger I was in and spent a time organising my forces for a more defensive position but I was convinced I couldn’t hope to win the game simply by sitting idle and waiting for Surjit to throw his forces at me. I still think a defensive battle would have been a mistake because the Prussian/Russian cavalry on both flanks of my infantry could have spent a couple of extra turns to come wide around my rear. I felt my only hope was to use my superiority in infantry quickly to snatch victory from a bad position. I chose poorly! 

The final points totals were 24 to the French and a decisive 38 points to the Prussians. A crushing defeat of the French if ever there was one. Back in 1813 the French won this battle, which just goes to show that I'm no Napoleon!


  1. Excellent BatRep, Lee! That one Russian cuirassier regiment caused more than its share of mayhem.

  2. Great AAR and pics Lee. Battles from 1813 should be a meat grinder.

    Yeah it's always tough playing out the great one's battles (Napoleon, Alexander, Freddy) - I think sometimes there may be something to building the armies of the also rans who made a good effort but fell short at the end. The expectations are much lower!
    Cheers, peter

    1. Thanks. Despite loosing I actually enjoyed playing it and writing it up.

  3. Excellent AAR Lee. Unlucky son!

  4. Replies
    1. Yes. I don't know what I did to Postie to deserve that deployment!

  5. An excellent report - very clear - I liked the annotated pictures..

    1. Thanks. Glad you liked the graphics, I was experimenting with a feature I didn't know I had on my computer! I'll try to use it more often.

  6. Nice AAR. It does look like you had a hard set up but I would of done the same thing in your shoes. Next time win the die roll to play the other side! 😀

    1. My ability to fail initiative and moral rolls is legendary!

  7. Great battle report. You had a tough job there!

    1. I felt like I was fire fighting the whole time.

  8. Looks like a smashing game. I do like the 1813 campaign, there's lot of unplumbed material.

    1. The rules a simple and even a complete newbie is playing like a pro by the second turn.

  9. Another great looking and fun sounding game :-)

    1. Every game is fun... But winning is extra fun.


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