Sunday 7 April 2024

Wismar Campaign – Day 6

Campaign Map

Third Prussian army retreat off map
Battle of Schwerin

1st Prussian Army – regroup and resupply at Wismar
2nd Prussian Army – battle of Schwerin
3rd Prussian Army – retreat off map

3rd French Army – regroup and resupply at Boltenhagen
1st French Army – attack Schwerin
2nd French Army – occupy Ludwigslust

Battle of Schwerin

Napoleon commanded the First French Army, which included the Imperial Garde. They had fought Blucher at the battle of Gadebusch three days earlier. That battle had been a technical victory for the Prussians, but they had suffered heavy casualties of 3100, compared to only 400 French. Napoleon was determined to crush the Prussians this time.

But it was not to be. The French lost a large cavalry battle, leaving two of their three brigades in rout. This left Napoleon at a serious disadvantage, and he would have to expose his infantry to win the day.

2nd and 3rd French corps attacked the hills on the flanks, and 1st (Imperial Garde) was given the take of taking the town in the centre. They took the hill on the right, but not the one on the left.

The cavalry moved forward to cover the Garde infantry, but when they lost the melee and routed the infantry had to form square and call off their attack.

Blucher continued to hold the hill on his left, but withdrew 5th corps to Schwerin and 4th corps to the fortified inn on his right. At nightfall he held a very strong position, and Napoleon called off the attack.

The French lost 3500 men (mostly in the Imperial Garde) to 1500 Prussians.

A convincing Prussian victory


Although the Prussians held a strong defensive position, they looked like they were facing defeat. They had lost heavy casualties at Gadebusch, and had only two cavalry brigades to the French three brigades. The French had only lost 400 men at Gadebusch.

Napoleon had been robbed of a victory at Gadebusch when Blucher withdrew before the French could close and complete their attack. This was partly because Napoleon had hesitated to risk casualties to his Garde. He would not make this mistake twice.

1st Garde corps was placed in the centre, and would attack Schwerin. It would be supported by a cavalry division (two brigades) led by Napoleon himself. The high ground to the left and right would be left to 2nd and 3rd French corps. They were not expected to take the high ground, but would pin two of the three Prussian corps.

The Garde artillery was deployed to be able to continue to fire even as the infantry went forward. The cavalry division would engage the Prussian cavalry and then concentrate on the Prussian guns in the centre.

The French did not wait for their artillery to weaken the enemy, that delay had cost them victory at Gadebusch. The attack began on move 3, when the cavalry moved forward to engage the Prussian cavalry. At the same time the infantry marched towards Schwerin.

The French cavalry included the elite guard chasseurs, and should have at least held the Prussian cavalry. However luck allowed the Prussians to charge first, giving them an advantage. They then rolled 5 and 6 on their melee dice. The French brigades both suffered 10% casualties, the two Prussian brigades none. The second round of melee was 10% casualties to all four brigades. But the French now had 20% casualties, failed their morale and routed.

Both Prussian brigades had passed their morale, and now turned on the garde infantry. The French had to form square, and unlimber their artillery to drive off the Prussian horsemen. They managed to do so, but it allowed the Prussians to withdraw to a second position in and around Schwerin.

Not only had Napoleon run out of time again, but this time he had suffered much heavier casualties, particularly in the garde infantry. First French Army was broken, and he had to call off the attack. A moral, and physical, defeat of the first order.

A bad day for the French (me), a great day for the Prussians (Jan)

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