|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 Napoleons 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 sides 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 Austrias 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 Frances defences.
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 Bluchers Army of Silesia, the smaller of the two Allied forces. Blucher forced Victor from St Dizier on the 27th. Schwarzenbergs 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. Yorcks corps was outside supporting distance. Sackens corps which had gone forward to Lesmont was ordered to retrace its 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 Picquets cavalry; the centre composed of the Guard toward Montier-en-Der and the left of Victors infantry and Milhauds 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.
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 its defence. He instructed Olsuvieffs IX corps to take up position before the village facing North West as soon as possible. Scherbatovs VI corps was to hasten up the road from La Rothiere and deploy on Olsuvieffs right. Wassiltschikovs 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
V Cavalry Corps, Genl Milhaud CC, Ex=5
9th Light Division, Genl Pire
5th Heavy Division, Genl Briche
6th Heavy Division, Genl LHertier
Young Guard, Marshal Ney CC
1st Voltigeur Division, Genl Meunier DC, Ex=5
2nd Voltigeur Division, Genl Decouz DC, Ex=4
II Corps, Genl Victor CC
Division Duhesme DC, Ex=3
Division Gerard "Paris Reserve Corps" DC, Ex=4
Division Ricard (from VI Corps) DC, Ex=3
Notes to the French Army:
1. Arrival points and times:
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 Bluchers 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
9th Infantry Division, Genl Udom II DC, Ex=5
15th Infantry Division, Genl Karnielov DC, Ex=4
VI Corps, Genl Scherbatow CC
7th Infantry Division, Genl Tallisin DC, Ex=4
18th Infantry Division, Genl Bernodossow DC, Ex=4
Cavalry Corps, Genl Wassiltschikov CC, Ex=5
Attached Cossack Division, Genl Karpov
Army of Bohemia (part)
Advance Guard, Genl Pahlen DC, Ex=2
Notes to the Russian Army:
1. Russian deployments:
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 Bluchers 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.
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).
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.