Friday, March 30, 2018

Bonaparte in Italy V: Castiglione, 1796 BBB

Continuing our series of Bonaparte in Italy, we tested the draft Bloody Big Battles scenario of Castiglione 1796 last night. Two of the Fencibles were elsewhere, at theater and concerts. Bill played young Bonaparte the first game and I the Austrian Wurmser. Andrew showed up later and took over my right flank as Quosdanovich. The three goals at game end: control of Brescia (French supplies), Austrians getting a brigade from the relief army into Mantua, and knocking out two more units than your own side loses. The French need two more for a win, one more for a tie. The Austrians have some leeway as to how the relief forces arrive. I opted for the historical arrival.

A brawl broke out between Wurmser’s column and the French which would go on for the rest of the game, with heavy losses.

Dogged by bad movement rolls, Andrew struggled to take Brescia by game end.
And now I blew it. My final attack threw a chance for victory out the window.
Bill chuckled that I had fallen into his trap. The French had Brescia and knocked out 5 units to their 2 once Quosdanovich’s supply line was cut for two points. The Austrians had just managed to relieve Mantua on the last turn for one point, making the game tied. French losses were 13 infantry and 2 run away. our house rules determined that Serurier was out of action for 1 day, Massena killed outright, Augereau out of action for 6 days, Kilmaine dead and Despinoy out of action for 4 days. The house rules for leader casualties are based on single day battles. For mini-campaigns like this we should roll during the game since some of the leaders might return during the game. We played 10 turns in 3 hours. Austrian losses were 8 infantry and 3 ran away, plus another 12 out of supply at game end. It was time to break for dinner with Andrew’s fine wine, followed by my wife’s excellent fruit tart.

We returned to the fray. I was now Bonaparte, Bill was Wurmser and Andrew reprised his role as Quosdanovich. I decided to abandon the siege of Mantua immediately and attack Quosdanovich. It worked for Bonaparte in the actual thing. What could go wrong?


Post game use of our house rules for officer casualties revealed that Bonaparte was badly wounded. The bullet was removed successfully but he died of infection. What will we call the wars that followed? Massena lost a leg and never returned to service. Despinoy was out of action for 5 days. I had hoped to use the superior quality of the French infantry and their greatly superior leadership to rapidly eradicate Quosdanovich. They still went to work but without the array of movement bonuses conferred by all the generals who’d been laid low.

Sauret was out of action for 2 days.

Critical stuff that didn’t get in photos because fighting wasn’t directly involved: the Austrians just barely failed to relive Mantua, having gotten too caught up in trying to hit the French rear. French cavalry rode into Verona, cutting two Austrian supply roads, but for naught since supply could be drawn through Legnago and Mantua. The only brigade in Quosdanovich’s column that hadn’t been destroyed or spent fought its way through the French and into supply with Wurmser’s column. I knocked out 3 Austrian units and lost 2, not enough for any points. The Austrians had no points, having failed to relive Mantua. The French had one point for holding Brescia, a tie again. I realized if Augereau had stayed in Legnango (and managed to hold it) much of the Austrian army would have been out of supply. Of course, they might have started moving to relive Mantua earlier. The game lasted just under two hours.

French losses: 8 infantry, 2 run off and that long list of generals down, starting with the mortally wounded Bonaparte. What a disaster. This is the second scenario in a row that I’ve gotten Bonaparte hit. Austrian losses: 7 infantry, 3 run off, 2 cut off at game end.

The scenario was a lot of fun. The French must respond to the Austrians. The variable arrival for Austrians ensures that there’s no single “solution” to the game. I can see this one having a lot of replay value. Now if I can get the mat for Wurmser’s second offensive done before our next session in two weeks…

Edit 4/3: The mat is coming along nicely.

Monday, March 26, 2018

US 6th Armored Division, 1944-1945

The statistics below are from the Combat History of the Super Sixth, not an Army publication, but compiled largely by the G3 and G2 officers of the 6th Armored Division. The booklet has no publication date but seems to be late 40’s or early 1950’s. It is the property of my father in law, who commanded a heavy weapons platoon in Korea during that war.

US 1944 Armored Division strength ~11,000

According to the medical service:

Battle casualties 5,704
55.5% shell fragments, 26.2 other types, 15.9 gunshot, 1.5 burns, .9 missing in action

Non-battle casualties 10,695
56% disease, 19.4 neuropsychiatric, 15.2 non-battle injuries, 9.4 frostbite and trench foot

Total casualties 16,400, 34.7% battle, 65.3 non-battle

[One might question calling combat fatigue cases non-combat. Non-combat losses would still be higher than combat losses even if that were changed.]

According to the Adjutant General:

Battle casualties 5,307  non-battle casualties 4,865        total 10,172

[The booklet does not explain different totals. AG figures only include battle casualties out of line 24 hours or more and non-battle casualties evacuated from the division. Medical records noting ~ 400 more battle casualties might include troops patched up and sent back into the line that day. Over 5,000 more non-battle casualties might include troops who were kept in divisional hospitals. Those are my guesses.]

Casualties 10,842         casualties returned to service 3,353                   reinforcements 7,454
Total of returns and reinforcements 10,807

Vehicles landed on Utah Beach, June 18, 1944, (same vehicles still in service VE day)

Medium tanks  
Light tanks       
Tank destroyers
Armored cars  
Observation planes      

[woe to the medium tank crews]

Vehicles destroyed: 449
Direct fire 51%, artillery and mortar 20%, bazooka 14%, mines 9%, other 6%

Vehicles disabled: 588
Artillery and mortar 52%, direct fire 28%, mines 13%, bazooka 5%, other means 2%

(direct fire does not include small arms)

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Lynde's or Lines Island; the colonial frontier in Maine

A colonial blockhouse in Kent, Maine. There were few of these around the Kennebec Territory.

I have read accounts of Indian raids rolling back the frontier in colonial times. On a visit to Maine my brother in law loaned me a copy of the “History of Woolwich, Maine, a Town Remembered” by the Woolwich Historical Society, 1994. In it I found an account of just how long it sometimes took before an area was resettled.

In the mid-coast region of Maine, about 40 miles north of Portland is an island in the Kennebec River.  It is south of Chopps Point, north of the City of Bath on the western shore and the town of Woolwich on the eastern shore. I will quote the book.

“The whole [island] was purchased by Christopher Lawson from Derumkin, the chief Sachem of the Androscoggins. It is believed the date of the deed was 1649 but records were lost during the first Indian war.

A dozen years later Lawson sold the island to Edward Camer (Keemer) of Boston… …Keemer dwelt upon it fourteen or fifteen years until the [King Phillips] war forced him away. No longer willing to take risks with the warring Indians, he sold his property to Samuel Lynde of Boston, Dec. 24, 1677, thus named Lynde’s Island.

From colloquial speech and careless enunciation the “D” was dropped and Lynde’s became Lines Island, as spoken and written.” [Lynde not showing up to settle the land aided this.]

[Lynde was a businessman and a judge in Boston.] “…Purchases from settlers driven from homes were a speculative venture of little money against hope of future values. Mr. Lynde’s coming at a time of peace to possess his property is not believed and even a tenant’s occupation is uncertain. A few years passed and none would venture to enter Kennebec Territory to seek a home. …But lying along the route of the Indians on the Kennebec, the island remained unsettled for eighty years from Lynde’s purchase.”

Other settlers in the area returned to their farms within a few years. But this island saw settlers chased off for eighty years, until well into the French and Indian War. It is a tale of early colonists fleeing the violence of frontier warfare and selling their property rights for a pittance to those wealthy enough to sit on the investment for generations.

Bonaparte in Italy IV: Borghetto

Back in early March the Fencibles played two games based the 1796 battle of Borghetto, where Bonaparte crossed the Mincio River. We were testing Chris Pringle’s scenario of the action. I then went off to ride out a couple Nor’easters on the Maine coast, so this report is posted more than two weeks later.

The first game saw me playing the hapless Austrian commander Beaulieu while Rick commanded my left flank, which would prove to be the Austrian weak point in both games. Jay played Bonaparte with Ken assisting him as Massena and Kilmaine. Below is the view from behind Austrian lines after the first French turn. Mantua and the outlying works are off-camera to the left.
Jay found the cumulative defensive modifiers for attacking a village across a deep river to be deadly.
Jay then made his crossing at a place vulnerable to Austrian counter-attack. I would make a similar error, but worse when we switched sides.
Things began to go wrong on our southern front.

The garrison of Mantua had attempted to bestir themselves but apparently was still forming ranks when the French cavalry cantered through the gates of the unguarded St. George outwork. I didn’t get a shot of this. Up north, the Austrians were thicker on the ground and putting on a better show.
Not so in the south.

The Austrians barely managed having 7 units in supply at game end, and by knocking out two French brigades squeaked out a tie, averting French victory. We played 6 turns in a little under two hours. Losses: French, 7 infantry with 1 run away, and Augereau out of action for some days. Austrian losses were 8 infantry, 1 ran away and 2 cavalry. We broke for dinner.

Afterwards we switched sides and began again. Rick went for a crossing that flanked the southern bridge, profiting from the first game. Ken, commanding opposite him, likewise learned and sent the garrison of Mantua to man the St. George outwork long before the French got near.
I made my northern crossing in a slightly different place than Jay had. My first brigade was chased back across the Mincio. I jammed three more across and sent all of my leaders right behind them.

I got a lesson in risk management.

Rick began bursting out from his bridgehead.
I was too stunned by the pounding I’d been taking to do anything but call for help. Rick noted the works of Mantua were properly manned and decided to swing north and rescue me. I needed rescuing. As it turned out, the Austrian units knocked out by the turn north made the difference.

We won a narrow French victory, based on cutting a lot of Austrians off from their supply lines at game end and having wiped out three Austrian units while losing only one French. The game took about 90 minutes. French losses were 8 infantry, while Austrian losses were 4 infantry with 1 run off and 2 cavalry with 2 run away. But with Augereau and Serurier out of action for some days and Bonaparte laid up for 4 months, I’d have to call it a pyrrhic victory. We enjoyed the game. It does look like this might be “solvable” though it would take more playing to bear this out.

Being a sanguinary player, I appreciate that these scenarios allow you to gain objectives by beating up the other side, in addition to geographic objectives. 
Next up, we play Castiglione this coming Thursday. Stay tuned.