Sunday 10 March 2024

Wismar Campaign – Day 3

Campaign Map                                                 

French retreat to Ratzeburg
Battle of Gadebusch

1st Prussian Army – regroup at Boltenhagen
2nd Prussian Army – battle of Gadebusch
3rd Prussian Army – regroup at Ludwigslust

3rd French Army – retreat to Ratzeburg
1st French Army – attack Gadebusch
2nd French Army – regroup at Hagenow

Battle of Gadebusch

Second Prussian army occupied a very strong defensive position, with a hill on the right and a walled farm on the left. One corps occupied each of these, with a third in the centre in front of Gadebusch.

To reach them The French would have to cross a line of hills, with one road in the centre and two small valleys on either side. The majority would have to cross the mountain range, which would take four moves as they had to move at half speed on the hills.

The main French attack would be on the walled farm on the left, with a secondary attack on the hill on the right. Once one of these objectives was taken 2nd corps in the centre would advance towards Gadebusch.

Despite heavy casualties the Prussians put up a determined defence, and managed to hold both the farm and the hill throughout the day. The decisive attack in the centre was never delivered.

Out of three battles the Prussians had now won two. However given their casualties it might well prove to be a pyrrhic victory.

Prussians lost 7 infantry, 2 cavalry and 1 artillery casualties (3600 men)
French lost 1 infantry casualty (400 men)


On paper this should have been a French victory. First French Army is commanded by Napoleon himself, and the first of his three corps are the Old Guard.

However to reach the Prussians they have to cross over a large mountain range. On the wargames table this is three large hills, with a road running through the centre one. All movement on these hills is at half normal speed, which meant they would take 4 of the maximum 12 moves to clear the high ground

The Prussians held a very strong defensive position, and their guns and artillery would be able to engage the French as they struggled down the mountain slope to reach the plain.

There was also the “wargames problem” of equal armies. Although the French had a lot of elite troops in 1st corps, this was balanced by more conscripts in 2nd and 3rd corps. Overall the Prussians had as many elite troops as the French, but they were spread between all three corps. The French would have gain an advantage in either cavalry or artillery before they could commit their main attack in the centre. They would also have to support the corps making the main attack, which would mean weakening either their left or right attack.

The slow approach march meant that there was not much time to gain the required advantage. They lost two of the three opening cavalry melee, and their artillery failed to cause any damage to the Prussian gunners. To their infantry would have to attack without any advantage.

Napoleon did not want to risk his Old Guard in the centre. They were given the take of taking the hill on his left. However to avoid casualties they did so without their usual aggressive flair. The result was a stalemate.

The attack on the farm was more successful, but it took too long. Two Prussian brigades were routed, but the remainder still held the farm at nightfall.

The attack in the centre was delayed by this lack of success on the flanks. They moved forward on move 9, but the Prussians immediately withdrew closer to the town. This required the French artillery to redeploy to support the attack. This took two game moves, and it was too late for the attack to succeed before nightfall.

A well fought, and quite clever, wargame for the Prussian player (Jan). Less so, and quite disappointing for the French player (me)

However things are not quite how they seem.

The Prussian held hill on the right is under attack by the Old Guard. The Prussians have already lost their cavalry and one infantry brigade. Their gunners have abandoned their guns and are inside an infantry square. The French infantry are not well placed to attack the hill, but will be by morning.

The farm on the Prussian left is under attack. The garrison is holding its own, but the rest of the corps has suffered casualties, ran away, rallied and been brought back to support the farm. However they are all placed behind the farm to shelter them from the French artillery. Their gunners and one infantry brigade is in rout. Once more the French corps is disorganised and most of their brigades in the wrong place to attack the farm. But by morning they will be redeployed.

The Prussian centre is strong and has not suffered any casualties

Blucher would like to attack the retreating 3rd French corps in the north, and attempt to hold Gadesbusch in the centre. But to do so he would risk the destruction of 2nd corps at Gadesbusch. This would allow 1st French corps to move north and join forces with 3rd French corps to defeat 1st Prussian corps between Ratzeburg and Boltenhagen.

His nerve breaks and he orders 2nd corps to retreat to Schwerin.


  1. Thistlebarrow,

    What a very interesting battle! The Prussians certainly fought well even if Blucher has decided to retreat. Any general who can fight an army led by Napoleon and win - even if the victory is a Phyrric one - must be rated as one of the best. Full marks to Jan!

    All the best,


  2. Hi Bob

    I did ponder whether to let 2nd Prussian corps pursue. But if they did so, and lost the battle in the centre (Gadebusch), they would be very isolated.

    It makes for a better campaign for the attacking French to win the first two battles, and the Prussians to retreat. The Prussians will then have the advantage and hopefully even the score in the last three battles. If the French lost the first battle this causes a problem, and there has to be some logic for the Prussians not to pursue.

    The campaign is designed to produce interesting battles to wargame, rather than as a strategic objective in itself. But there still has to be some logic to the whole thing.

    Lets hope than Jan's run of luck does not reverse the whole campaign!




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