Brienne - 29th January 1814

This scenario was originally developed by Martin Soilleux-Cardwell, but has been amended by Keith McNelly.

The Defence of France

In January 1814 the French army was again on home soil after the defeats of 1812 and 1813. 73,000 men were lost as a direct result of Leipzig and Napoleon was obliged to leave another 100,000 troops in garrisons in Germany. The classes of 1812 to 1815 were called up, theoretically producing 936,000 conscripts but evasions and lack of weapons meant only 310,000 raw untrained recruits joined the colours.

Prince Eugene was reluctant to release troops from Italy as many were Piedmontese who, it was feared, would desert if ordered north. 100,000 were facing Wellington in northern Spain and this line was under pressure also but despite this 25,000 men and 58 guns were sent to Paris on Napoleon’s demand.

In early January the French field armies mustered only 70,000 men. These faced 245,000 front line allied troops. In April this number was swelled (including depots, garrisons and line of communication troops) to 887,000.

Both side’s aim in 1814 was Paris, the one to defend it, the other to capture it. However the Allies disharmonious policies meant all was not well with their plan of campaign. Britain was fully committed to forcing the Pyrenees this year and could apply no pressure elsewhere. The Russian Czar had his eye on the fall of Paris in revenge for the loss of Moscow in 1812 although his subordinates informed him that Mother Russia was now safe from further direct attack and she had given more than her share of lives and resources. Any more waste would be purely for the benefit of Austria, Prussia and Britain.

The Austrian Emperor, advised by Metternich, was prepared to offer Napoleon terms. Most of Austria’s territory was recovered and she was wary of seeing any increase in power and influence of her old adversaries Prussia and Russia.

The Prussian King was under the thrall of the Czar and wanted to agree his plans, but, following 1806 (and for historical reasons) his people harboured a violent hatred of France and Napoleon in particular. His advisors emphasized that for the safety of his crown, the total destruction of Napoleon was essential.

While the talking continued, Napoleon worked like a demon to build up France’s defences.

Preliminary Moves

In November 1813 the Allies opened a series of war councils and invited Napoleon to enter into negotiations. However both parties continued to make ready and when the talks stagnated the Allied columns marched. The Army of Bohemia crossed the Upper Rhine at Basle, securing direct communications with Austria. The Army of Silesia crossed the middle Rhine near Coblenz with the intention of occupying the French until the Army of Bohemia closed up. The Army of the North was mainly occupied reducing the various garrisons Napoleon had left behind, as well as securing Holland and keeping an eye on Davout, based near Hamburg.

Napoleon meanwhile had his main force facing the Rhine, in detached corps. He had intended to fight a major action in defence of Paris, believing the two Allied armies combined mustered only 80,000 men. When reports reached him of their true strength he changed his plan to that of the Central Position which had given him victory so many times in the past. He would strike one army and defeat it before it could join with the other and overwhelm his weaker force.

The Rhine barrier was lost in early January and the French corps under MacDonald, Marmont, Victor and Ney fell back rapidly. Only Mortier fought a gallant series of delaying actions over 18 days from Langres to Bar-sur-Aube. With the front collapsing Victor was replaced and Marmont given overall command of a new defensive line along the Meuse but this position was carried before the orders to hold it had taken effect.

Leaving his brother Joseph to organise the defence of Paris, Napoleon rode in haste to Chalons-sur-Marne where he arrived on 26th January. He decided at once to attack Blucher’s Army of Silesia, the smaller of the two Allied forces. Blucher forced Victor from St Dizier on the 27th. Schwarzenberg’s Army of Bohemia was then at Bar-sur-Aube, dangerously close to joining Blucher. Napoleon ordered Mortier, Bourdessoulle and Colbert to join him but his attack would be disjointed. It would have to do.

Blucher read intercepted dispatches in the small hours of the 29th, revealing that his position was now exposed with possibly 30,000 to 40,000 men behind his flank. Yorck’s corps was outside supporting distance. Sacken’s corps which had gone forward to Lesmont was ordered to retrace it’s steps with all speed.

Napoleon ordered an advance on Brienne in three columns, the right, from Vitry, composed of the divisions of Gerard, Dufour and Ricard plus Picquet’s cavalry; the centre composed of the Guard toward Montier-en-Der and the left of Victor’s infantry and Milhaud’s cavalry down the left bank of the Marne to Rochefort, from there to join the Guard at Montier.

Blucher had some luck. Von Pahlen, leading the 3,000 strong Advance Guard of the Army of Bohemia well in advance of the main body, promised to reach him by early afternoon. Cossacks had intercepted the couriers carrying the orders for Mortier, Bourdessoulle and Colbert and these forces would not now threaten his left and rear, although Blucher was not aware of this at the time.

29th January

Blucher received reports at 8:30a.m. that his Cossack outposts at Montier-en-Der had been overthrown by more numerous French cavalry, with powerful French cavalry columns moving down the road to Brienne. Sending word to Pahlen to march his columns at their utmost, Blucher went to Brienne village and began issuing orders for it’s defence. He instructed Olsuvieff’s IX corps to take up position before the village facing North West as soon as possible. Scherbatov’s VI corps was to hasten up the road from La Rothiere and deploy on Olsuvieff’s right. Wassiltschikov’s cavalry corps would watch the extreme right towards Perthes and Morvilliers.

By 1:00p.m. the French cavalry had deployed from the defile in the woods and began to walk forward.

Orders of Battle

FRENCH ARMY, 22,500 men and 60 guns. Emperor Napoleon (AC, Monarch)

3rd Guard Cavalry Division, Genl Lefebre-Desnoittes DC, Ex=5

Brigade Dautancourt

  • Polish Dragoons & Polish Grenadiers a Cheval       M6 [ ][ ][ ] hv

Brigade Krasinski

  • 1st Polish Lancers & 2nd Eclaireurs                M6 [s][s] lt,lncr
  • Guard Horse Artillery Battalion                    M6 [ ][ ] fld

V Cavalry Corps, Genl Milhaud CC, Ex=5

Corps Troops

  • Horse Artillery Battalion                          M6 [ ][ ] fld

9th Light Division, Genl Pire

  • 9th & 16th Chasseurs a Cheval, 3rd & 6th Hussars   M5 [s][s] lt

5th Heavy Division, Genl Briche

  • 2nd, 6th, 11th, 15th & 18th Dragoons               M5 [ ][ ][ ] md

6th Heavy Division, Genl L’Hertier

  • 19th, 20th, 25th & 30th Dragoons                   M5 [ ][ ][ ] md

Young Guard, Marshal Ney CC

Corps Troops

  • Young Guard Foot Artillery Battalion               M6 [ ][ ]fld

1st Voltigeur Division, Genl Meunier DC, Ex=5

  • Brigade Rousseau                                   M6 [ ][ ][ ][s] Shock
  • Brigade Lacoste                                    M6 [ ][ ][ ][s] Shock

2nd Voltigeur Division, Genl Decouz DC, Ex=4

  • Brigade Forestier                                  M6 [ ][ ][s] Shock
  • Brigade Baste                                      M6 [ ][ ][s] Shock

II Corps, Genl Victor CC

Corps Troops

  • 1st Foot Artillery Battalion                       M5 [ ][ ] fld
  • 2nd Foot Artillery Battalion                       M5 [ ][ ] fld

Division Duhesme DC, Ex=3

  • Converged Brigade                                  M5 [ ][ ][ ][ ][s] 

Division Gerard "Paris Reserve Corps" DC, Ex=4

  • Brigade                                            M5 [ ][ ][ ][ ] PT, NE
  • Brigade                                            M5 [ ][ ][ ] PT, NE

Division Ricard (from VI Corps) DC, Ex=3

  • Brigade Beleport                                   M5 [ ][ ][s] 
  • Brigade Clavel                                     M5 [ ][ ][s]

Notes to the French Army:

1.  Arrival points and times:

  • Pire’s Cavalry Division, Milhaud, turn 1, point A
  • 3rd Guard Cavalry Division and balance of V Cavalry Corps, turn 2, point A
  • Young Guard, Ney, Napoleon, turn 4, point A
  • Duhesme Division, turn 5, point B
  • Balance of II Corps, Victor, turn 5, point C
  • Corps troops may arrive with any element of their respective corps.

2. The French must inflict heavy losses on the Russian Army of Silesia, and drive it S away from friendly forces to the NE. Throwing the enemy out of Brienne-le-Chateau and the Chateau itself is vital. If all Russian commands of the Army of Silesia are exhausted and at least 1 collapsed, and the French still have one command unexhausted, the French win. If the road S from Brienne-le-Chateau can be cut for two consecutive turns by at least one in command French infantry brigade the game is considered ended in a French victory as Blucher’s supply line is cut and his troops run short of ammunition and must withdraw or be overrun.

3. fld = field artillery,  hv = heavy (either artillery or cavalry), lncr = lance armed cavalry, lt = light (either artillery or cavalry), md = medium cavalry, PT = poorly trained regulars, [s] = may detach a SP as as skirmisher.

ARMY OF SILESIA, 17,500 men and 90 guns. Feldmarschall Blucher AC

IX Corps, Genl Olsuvieu CC

Corps Troops:

  • 15th Heavy Foot Battery                            M5 [ ][ ] hv

9th Infantry Division, Genl Udom II DC, Ex=5

  • 1st Brigade, Genl Poltarazin                       M5 [s][ ][ ][ ]
  • 2nd Brigade, Genl Iuschkov II                      M5 [s][ ][ ]
  • 13th Light Foot Battery                            M5 [ ][ ] fld

15th Infantry Division, Genl Karnielov DC, Ex=4

  • Converged Brigade, Genl Pushkin                    M5 [ ][ ][ ][ ][ ]
  • 29th Light Foot Battery                            M5 [ ][ ] fld

VI Corps, Genl Scherbatow CC

Corps Troops

  • 10th Heavy Foot Battery                            M5 [ ][ ] hv

7th Infantry Division, Genl Tallisin DC, Ex=4

  • 1st Brigade, Genl Kritschnikof                     M5 [s][ ][ ]
  • 2nd Brigade, Genl Augustov                         M5 [s][ ][ ]
  • 28th Light Foot Battery                            M5 [ ][ ] fld

18th Infantry Division, Genl Bernodossow DC, Ex=4

  • 1st Brigade, Genl Blagovenzento                    M5 [s][ ][ ]
  • 2nd Brigade, Genl Heidrich                         M5 [s][ ][ ]
  • 24th Light Foot Battery                            M5 [ ][ ] fld

Cavalry Corps, Genl Wassiltschikov CC, Ex=5

  • 18th Horse Artillery Battery                       M6 [ ][ ] fld
  • 2nd Hussar Division, Genl Lauskoi                  M5 [s][s] lt
  • 3rd Dragoon Division, Genl Pantchoulitcheff        M5 [ ][ ] md

Attached Cossack ‘Division’, Genl Karpov

  • Karpov II & Sementschenko Cossack Regts            M4 [ ] sko,lt,lncr
  • Lukovsin & Kutainikof Cossack Regts                M4 [ ] sko,lt,lncr
  • Tchongonieff Uhlan Regt                            M5 [s] Linear,lt,lncr

Army of Bohemia (part)

Advance Guard, Genl Pahlen DC, Ex=2

  • Hussar Brigade Delanov, Grodno & Sumy Regts        M5 [s][s]lt
  • Tchougouieff II & Illowaisky XII Cossack Regts     M4 [ ] sko,lt,lncr
  • 4th & 34th Jager Regts (part)                      M5 [s] sk
  • 23rd Horse Artillery Battery (half)                M6 [ ] fld

Notes to the Russian Army:

1. Russian deployments:

  • Olsuvieu, Udom’s and Karnielov’s Infantry Divisions, NW of Brienne en route to Brienne.
  • Scherbatow, Tallisin’s and Bernodossow’s Infantry Divisions, E of Brienne, facing E.
  • Wassiltschikov, Pantchoulitcheff’s Cavalry Division, SE of Brienne en route to Brienne.
  • Blucher in Brienne
  • Lauskoi’s Cavalry Division and Karpov’s Cossack ‘Division’, E of Tallisin and Bernodossow, facing N and SE.
  • Pahlen’s Advance Guard, arrive turn 1 in Dienville

2. The Russian objective is to hold Brienne and the Chateau and maintain the road open to the S which is a Line of Communications. If this road is cut for two consecutive turns by the French, the game is considered ended in a French victory as Blucher’s supply line is cut and his troops run short of ammunition and must withdraw or be overrun. If the Russians occupy either Brienne-le-Chateau or the chateau itself, at the end of the day, and their LoC is open, they win. Inflicting losses on the French is the second object: if all French commands are exhausted and at least one Russian command of the Army of Silesia is unexhausted, the Russians win.

3. fld = field artillery, lncr = lance armed cavalry, lt = light (either artillery or cavalry), md = medium cavalry, [s] = may detach a SP as as skirmisher, sk = skirmisher.

Download the OOB in PDF format.

Scenario Notes

1. The ground is soft in places and desultory light rain falls all day. Due to mud, road column gives no movement advantage.

2. Turn 1 is 1:00 p.m. Dusk descends on game turn 5 (5:00 p.m.). Command radius drops to 4" and no units may rally. Darkness falls on game turn 6 (6:00 p.m.). Visibility reduces to 2", all units suffer -1 morale, and no units may rally or recover disorder. In addition I suggest that once darkness falls artillery can no longer unlimber or go stationary and movement for all troops is reduced by half. This last modification prevents artillery moving rapidly around the battlefield and accounts for the significant confusion of night movement. The last game turn is 13 (1:00 a.m. 30th January). The French are the attackers.

3. The south west edge of the map is the unfordable river Aube. All woods are ‘open’. Brienne Chateau has only one gate and has thick high walls. It may only be attacked from the west face. The attackers suffer a -1 morale modifier. However it loses this status from turn 6 onwards (in the battle a French brigade flanked the position in the dark and took it by surprise).

The Map

Note: For ease of deployment and scenario description the north table edge is considered to be on that board edge which has entry point A, while points B and C are on the east table edge.

Acknowledgments to P P H Heath and his excellent little booklet "Great Battles of History Refought - Brienne", Anschluss, 1987.  

[Return to the Volley & Bayonet Page]