Sunday 27 March 2022

Gera Campaign – Day 7

7 May 1813 – Central Germany – Day 7

Both armies are nearing the end of their operational ability

Despite heavy fighting over the past 4 days, neither side has gained an advantage.

It is becoming clear that the French will not be able to achieve their campaign objective of taking Gera


In the north French retreat to Sommerda, Russians regroup at Naumburg

In the centre Russians rally at Jena, French resupply at Weimar

In the south French attack Sulza


Battle of Sulza

To secure the border Marshal Davout orders 6th French army to take Sulza.

A victory would at least secure a foothold in the District of Gera


Both armies start the battle with considerable battle casualties

MacDonald is aware that with such brittle morale he cannot risk heavy casualties

As attacker, this presents a difficult problem.


A depleted 8th French corps will hold the mountainous northern section

He creates a reserve of three infantry and one cavalry brigades

This will form the spearhead of his attack.

15th Vistula corps will support the attack in the south.

He deploys his army out of artillery range of 3rd Russian army

His corps artillery advance into range of the Russian infantry and open fire

The Russian guns reply, but do little damage


The French reserve advance in the centre

The Vistula lancers move forward to threaten the enemy artillery

Russian Cossacks charge the lancers, but lose the melee and rout

A nearby Russian infantry brigade lose their resulting morale test and join the rout

The Russian gunners abandon their guns and take cover in the remaining infantry square


By midday it is clear to Winzingerode that he cannot hope to hold the French

With two infantry and one cavalry brigade in rout he orders the rest of his army to withdraw

One infantry brigade will hold Sulza until nightfall, and will then retreat to join the rest of the army


The Russians have lost 3 infantry and 1 cavalry casualties (1300 men)

The French have suffered no casualties


The outcome of this battle was decided solely on morale

Almost every brigade in both armies had at least 10% casualties from earlier battles

This left them very vulnerable if forced to take a morale test

It also made it very likely that if one brigade were to rout, the supporting brigades might well join them


So the French commander held his infantry and cavalry out of artillery range of the Russian army

He then advanced his artillery to long range of the Russian infantry, who had to hold their ground to protect their guns

His intention was to weaken the infantry with artillery fire, and then attack with infantry and cavalry.

The only reply open to the Russian gunners was to fire on the difficult to hit French gunners


Only one Russian infantry brigade was hit, and it lost its morale and routed

Fortunately their supporting brigades passed their morale test.


The French infantry would now have to advance to take Sulza

This meant moving into range of the Russian gunners

Only the French reserve advanced, the two corps on the flanks held their ground


The Russian infantry brigade which had routed left one of the Russian batteries uncovered.

The Vistula lancers advanced to threaten these guns, and the supporting Cossack brigade counter charged

The Poles won the melee, and routed the Cossacks

A nearby Russian infantry brigade had to test their morale, failed and joined the Cossacks

The Russian gunners had to abandon their guns and seek shelter in a nearby infantry square.


As the result of one cavalry melee the Russian centre was broken, without a single French casualty


The remainder of the Russian army was now seriously outnumbered and withdrew before the French could reach them


However this battle could just as easily have gone the other way


If the Russians infantry square had not broken things would have gone very different

The Vistula lancers could not have charged the Russian infantry

They would have come under artillery fire to get within charge range of the Cossacks

Possibly lost casualties, cavalry melee should have resulted in a draw at best

French infantry would have had to march towards the guns

Would almost certainly have lost at least one infantry brigade

May well have lost more due to failure of morale.


Should have been a Russian victory


Turned out to be a French one


Sunday 20 March 2022

Gera Campaign – Day 6

6 May 1813 – Central Germany – Day 6

The campaign is going badly for the French

By now they should be in position to attack Gera

But they are still west of the border

In the centre and south they have finally forced the Russians to retreat

However to move into Gera district they must take Naumburg


In the north French army attack Russians west of Naumburg

In the centre French regroup, Russians retreat behind Jena

In the south French army advance to make contact with Russians at Sulza

Second Battle of Naumburg

Both armies start the battle with considerable casualties from previous battles.

Lefebvre is aware that his army is not strong enough to launch a frontal attack

He orders both corps to move to the centre and support the main attack.

This is spearheaded by the reserve of two infantry brigades and one corps artillery


The reserve artillery is routed by the Russian gunners

This causes the central attack to stall until the redeployment is complete


Constantine reacts to the French redeployment by retiring his right and centre

The right retreat into the woods, the centre to the valley between the two hills

On his left 4th corps move down from the hill and join the centre


The Russian gunners concentrate on the French cavalry, and rout both

This spreads to two infantry brigades, and 5th corps artillery


Without cavalry or artillery support the French infantry must withdraw


French lost 1 infantry, 1 cavalry and 2 gunners (700 men)

Russians lost 1 infantry (400 men)


After four battles both armies have suffered considerable casualties.

Even with reinforcements most brigades have at least 10% casualties

This would have a significant effect on this battle.


It would have more effect on the French, who would have to attack

They would have to accept some artillery casualties as they approached the Russian position

The French commander was aware that they could not risk a frontal attack

He ordered a redeployment towards the centre, where the reserve would spearhead the attack.


Obviously the Russians reacted with their own redeployment

They withdrew to a strong position in the centre at the entrance to the valley

Their left wing retreated to the woods, their right moved down from the southern hill to extend the centre


The battle was decided with relatively few French casualties

The Russian gunners were lucky with their dice, and hit the Westphalian artillery and French cavalry

Both failed their morale due to battle casualties, both broke and routed

Both routs spread to nearby brigades, who already had battle casualties


Only one infantry melee took place, when the Russian infantry stormed the inn in the centre

They won, but it had little effect on the outcome of the battle


This battle could have gone either way, the Russians were luckier on the day


The French really needed to win this battle, and the outlook is now bleak for them

Sunday 13 March 2022

Gera Campaign – Day 5

5 May 1813 – Central Germany – Day 5

The campaign is not going well for the French

They had anticipated that by now they would have taken the three border towns of Naumburg, Jena and Sulza.  

All three are still held by the Russians.


In the north both armies regroup and resupply

In the centre 4th French army attack Jena

In the south the Russians retreat to Sulza.

Battle of Jena

The battle is fought to the west of Jena.

The French advance in three columns

In the north 2nd (Young Guard) corps

In the centre a reserve of three infantry brigades and corps artillery

In the south 6th French corps


The battle opens with an exchange of artillery fire, which causes little damage

2nd corps occupy the northern hill, but do not attack

6th corps attack in the south, but are unable to break 1st Russian corps

The battle is decided by the fight in the centre between the two reserves


The French 12pdr guns dominate the 6pdr Russian guns

At midday the French infantry advance, and rout the shaken Russian gunners


Having broken the Russian centre the French artillery redeploy to support 2nd corps. 

Before they can attack the Russian army retreats.


The French claim victory, but the Russians are not defeated

At nightfall they still hold Jena and both corps are in good order


The French have lost 2 infantry and 1 cavalry casualties (900 men)

The Russians have lost 3 infantry, 1 cavalry and 2 artillery casualties (1500 men)



Marshal Davout is well aware how critical this battle would be.

Each army has won one battle so far in the campaign

However the French have failed to drive the Russians back from the border

If they lose this battle and retreat they have failed in their campaign objective


With both armies on the table at the start of the game no time was lost in deployment

By move two the French artillery were in range of the Russian gunners

After four rounds of artillery fire little damage had been done


In the north Davout did not want to risk heavy casualties to his elite 2nd Young Guard corps

He advanced his infantry on the high ground, out of sight of the Russian guns

Their cavalry advanced in the valley to cover their flank

But were careful not to approach too close to the Russian guns or heavy cavalry

They were waiting for the French reserve to come to their support


In the centre both armies had created a reserve of three infantry brigade and corps artillery

The winner here would be able to support either the northern or southern wing


In the south 6th French and 1st Russian corps were evenly matched

Neither had managed to gain artillery superiority

Finally the French  had to advance and move into Russian artillery range

Their cavalry charged the Russian Cossacks, expecting a quick victory

However they lost the cavalry melee and had to retreat shaken

The unsupported French infantry quickly retired


The battle in the centre was decided by the French 12pdr artillery

They outranged the smaller 6pdr Russian guns

They were able to move into close range of the Russian guns and pound them

As soon as the Russian gunners were shaken the infantry advanced and routed them


Although the Russians retired, they did so in good order and still holding Jena

Sunday 6 March 2022

Gera Campaign – Day 4

4 May 1813 – Central Germany – Day 4

Having won the battle of Naumburg, the whole Russian army moves forward to the border.  

In the south Third army cross the border and launch a surprise attacks on Saalfeld.

After a hard fought battle the French hold the town 

Battle of Saalfeld

The Russians create a reserve of both corps artillery and two elite infantry brigades.   The French reserve is two elite infantry brigades allocated to hold the town.

The Russians have to advance through the hills to reach Saalfeld.   This results in a slow deployment, except for the reserve artillery who use the only available road to deploy first.

The French are deployed on the hills either side of the town, and happy to wait for the Russian attack.  The reserve artillery remain behind the town to avoid the Russian artillery deployed in front of Saalfeld.

In the north, 8th French corps has to advance into the plain, to disrupt the Russian reserve.   5th Russian corps attack, but are driven back with heavy casualties

In the south the Russians remain behind the crest of the hill.   6th Russian corps attack, and have more success than in the north.  But at nightfall the hill is still disputed.

So the battle is decided in the centre.   The Russian refusal to garrison the town protects the reserve infantry.   The French reserve infantry suffer heavy casualties as they approach the town, and are too weak to attack.   At nightfall the French still hold the town, and claim victory.


It is interesting how the campaign takes on a life of its own.   The intention of this campaign phase was that the French would move east into Gera district, with the objective to taking Gera itself.

This would mean that the initial fighting would take place at Naumburg, Jena and Sulza.   However the Russian victory at Naumburg dictated that the Russians should take the initiative and march into Erfurt district. 

This in effect would make it the Erfurt campaign phase, not the Gera campaign phase!

So this battle, even though it was very early in the campaign phase, was critical.   If the Russians won at Saalfeld it would be extremely difficult for the French to hold the line of the border.  They would have to retreat to Wissensee, Erfurt and Suhl.

The latest winning tactic is for the attacker to create a very strong reserve, usually infantry and artillery, under the command of the Army commander.   The defender has to defend the whole front, leaving the point of attack to the attacker.   Using the reserve the attacking general can choose which of the two wings to support, giving them a high likehood of winning.

The counter is for the defender to do the same.   The game objective is always the town, so the defender must use his reverse to hold it.  By putting his infantry into the town, he presents an excellet target to the attacker.   He can move his artillery into close range of the town, batter the garrison and then attack with his reserve infantry when they have received sufficient casualties.

In this game the French defender (Jan) found a winning counter to this tactic.   She created a reserve of two elite infantry brigades.  But they were placed behind the town, not inside it.   The two corps either side of the town deployed their artillery close to the town, providing long range support.

As the Russian reserve advanced they came under fire from the French artillery.   There was no one in the town, and the enemy infantry was behind the crest of the hills on either side.  So the Russian artillery had no targets, other than the difficult to hit French gunners.   However Russian infantry had to be close enough to support the reserve artillery, and therefore were within range of the Russian gunners.  They suffered heavy casualties, and were too weak to attack the town.

Had the Russian reserve infantry stormed the town early in the battle, they would have suffered even more casualties from the French artillery.  And the French reserve infantry could have entered the town at the same time as the attackers, thus preventing the Russian artillery from firing on them.

This simple tactic won the game for the French.   And it presented a very effective to the previous battle winning attacker reserve.   It will be interesting to see if we can come up with a counter to the counter!