Monday, February 20, 2017

Mars la Tour August 16 1870 Part 1

The following was played on March 31, 2016

The Corlears Hook Fencibles started a game of the 1870 battle of Mars la Tour using the Bloody Big Battles rules. Unfortunately I thought I was taking lots of pictures but took only a few. I’ve done this once before. That will teach me to hold down the shutter until it clicks. I have one taken before the game, one during and several taken after I realized what had happened. So there are a number of shots of the end of the 9th turn.

Bill commanded his Prussians, seconded by Rick. I led my French with Ken at my side. Mars la Tour sees the French army of the Rhine discovering a smaller German force across their line of escape. In the actual battle they were unable to sweep the Germans aside. We have two more turns to play next week but it looks on track to duplicate the real battle. Even down to losses. Here’s the table before the first move.

I decided to try for Vionville and Mars la Tour on the right, with Ken tasked to hold Rezonville and Gravelotte on the left. I left Ken with an infantry brigade and artillery battalion of 2 Corps and the Guard grenadiers, with the eventual reinforcement of the Guard Voltigeurs and artillery. I said I’d send more if he was hard pressed. I sent most of 2 Corps to take Vionville and marched the 6 Corps down the back road to take Mars la Tour. 3 Corps and elements of 4 Corps were to also head for Mars la Tour. That was my plan, anyway.

Rick was tasked with taking Vionville and Mars la Tour while Bill demonstrated against Rezonville. I think that was their plan. To start with, a French infantry unit marched to Flavigny while German cavalry evaded before them. They didn’t evade far enough because the French rifles dropped many of them and routed the rest. This gave me ideas above my station and the infantry advanced towards a rise where three battalions of Krupp guns were unlimbering. A hail of shells sent the French infantry scurrying to the rear after heavy losses.

Other 2 Corps infantry got into Vionville.  The stately march of the 6 Corps saw the German X Corps get into Mars la Tour well ahead of them. Two streams with bridges slowed the route into Mars la Tour.

Back on our left, Bill’s troops emerged from the woods and met a hail of rifle and artillery fire. The guns were shooting well and the Germans recoiled back into the woods, infantry and artillery alike. One brigade came down from the hill and threatened a gap in the French left center, only to be enfiladed on each flank by French artillery. They were lucky to make it back to their original position without serious loss.

The three Krupp gun battalions around Vionville rained down shells, causing serious losses. One division routed just after being relieved. The relieving unit began losing heavily, though it drove back several assaults. Backed by a couple battalions of French artillery on the hills behind them, they dealt out losses to the Prussian infantry. Between attacks the artillery pounded the town.

Meanwhile the large division of Prussian cuirassiers marched into the Bois de Tronville, looking to exploit a gap in the French line. Two divisions of French cavalry moved to head them off. The 4 Corps mitrailleuse battalion moved up in support. The cuirassier wheeled to threaten Vionville, assuming the French cavalry would move as tardily as they had been previously. Both divisions were alert, to the surprise of all and they charged into the wood to flank the cuirassiers. A nasty fight saw the cuirassiers driven back with losses, though one French division also suffered and quit the field.

On the 9th turn the cuirassiers rallied and charged Vionville from the northwest. Rifle fire emptied saddles and the charge fell back. But the Prussian brigade that had probed our left center before charged from the southeast at the same time and drove the battered French division out. A French division from 3 Corps moved up, deployed in close range and was disrupted by needle gun fire.

At Mars la Tour the French were slowly gaining the upper hand in the fire fight, helped by both battalions of Krupp guns being silenced and forced to displace back. But their lead infantry unit was cut up and forced back. What with difficult terrain before the town and the still considerable German fire, I was having trouble getting an attack organized. I was punching hard at the forces flanking the town but the town was untouched.

A shot up German brigade suddenly marched over the bridge. Three battalions of French artillery emptied their limber chests and routed the brigade. We stopped the game at this point and will complete it next week. Rick said he thought it was the end of the game, which explained the cavalry charge and the spent brigade advancing over the bridge. Bill forgot about the free die roll from his win at Borny last week, so he still has it for the last two turns. I suspect that means the French are not going to manage a tie by taking Vionville. But it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.

We played 9 turns in 5 hours. The French lost 11 infantry and 1 cavalry stand with 2 infantry and 1 cavalry having fled, about 12,000. The Germans lost 11 infantry and 3 cavalry, with 2 infantry and 1 cavalry fled, about 14,000. Here are the shots from the end of the 9th turn.

If the Germans still hold both Vionville and Mars la Tour at the end of next week they win, if they hold one they have a tie (and the French escape route still cut off). Hopefully I won’t make the camera mistake next week.

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