|Gross Beeren - 23rd August 1813
This scenario has been developed by Martin Soilleux-Cardwell.
The main French army was around Dresden. Oudinot was sent to attack Berlin with an army of four corps and a cavalry corps, the intent being to destroy the Prussian magazines and to so disrupt their administration that they could not supply any more Landwehr to the field army this year.
The French were advancing on Berlin via three routes, one through Trebbin (Oudinot - off map to the west), the others through Gross Beeren and Blankenfeld (Reynier and Bertrand), at the point where these roads exit the forests. Oudinot was overall army commander. He did not expect to meet the enemy and had placed his three lead corps out of mutual supporting distance, as was his fourth, reserve corps. Gross Beeren thus became, to all intents and purposes, two separate battles, side by side.
Bertrands corps attacked towards Blankenfeld at 9:00am. He pushed Fontanellis Italians down the road and into the woods with all skirmishers out in front. On the Prussian side Dobschutz was deployed south of the village with his troops close to the woods. He had the corps artillery under command which was deployed right in the front line. It was this short range artillery fire which caused Fontanellis Italians a great deal of trouble (in V&B terms they had to check morale and sometimes failed, the skirmishers thus went disordered and it took them time to reorganise to renew the firefight). Lindenaus brigade was deployed in reserve behind Dobschutz either side of the village. Blankenfeld itself was not occupied as it was considered that the Landwehr were not well enough trained or disciplined for fighting within villages. The Italians reached the far edge of the woods with Moronis brigade to the left of the road, Martels axis being along it and St Andrea to the right. Fontanelli, however, only harassed the Prussians and made no serious attack. Bertrand had seemingly interpreted his orders to occupy Blankenfeld as meaning to occupy or distract the enemy there. His other two divisions were not seriously engaged. At 2:00pm he actually withdrew Fontanelli considering that Reyniers advance on Gross Beeren would outflank Tauentzien and oblige him to withdraw.
Bertrand now merely kept contact with the Prussians around Blankenfeld preventing them from wheeling right to threaten Reyniers right flank at Gross Beeren. Thus by early afternoon the battle in the east had degenerated into minor skirmishing and was not resumed.
At 11:00am Reyniers corps pushed into the thick belt of woods in front of Gross Beeren and finding only a single battalion of jagers in the town, occupied it between 2:00-3:00pm. Reynier settled down to hold his gains, actually disposing his troops to bivouac for the night, 28th Saxons to the west of the village, 32nd to their left and 24th Saxons on the far left. Von Gablenzs cavalry was posted at Neu Beeren. He was not long left in idleness and Prussian III Corps advanced from the direction of Heimersdorf some time around 3:00pm. At the same time heavy rain began to fall.
As Bulows troops advanced, Reynier saw that his weakest point was his left and he deployed Lecoqs division in a huge seven-battalion square with the corps reserve artillery in support. Bulow then directed 62 guns of his artillery to bombard the square. Reynier responded by planting his entire corps artillery, some 52 guns, on Windmill Height and a counterbattery duel began about 5:00pm and lasted for an hour and a half with little effect.
As the artillery action began, Borstalls 3rd brigade swung wide to the east, took Klein Beeren and attacked the wood north of Gross Beeren, driving out a Saxon battalion of Sahrs division. Meanwhile Kraffts brigade assaulted the village from the north and Hesse-Homberg attacked towards Durutte and VII Corps artillery on the Windmill Height (this rise was only some 25 feet above the surrounding terrain but it gave a commanding view north and allowed the French to keep reserves out of fire south of it). Several savage assaults were put in against Gross Beeren and Sahrs Saxons eventually thrown out, the pressure causing the Saxon line on the east end of the Height to fall back too. Soon pretty much the whole of Sahrs men were in headlong flight. Ryssel attempted a counterattack to regain the Height but was decisively thrown back.
Duruttes division which had been posted as a reserve south of the Heights now attempted to recapture them but his right hand brigade (de Vauxs) was swept away by the retreating Saxons (in V&B terms it failed its morale check for the Prussian guns at short range on the heights and was routed through and carried away) and Jarrys brigade followed soon after without firing a shot. The woods south of Gross Beeren were now getting full of men intent on puting as much distance as they could between themselves and the advancing Prussians.
It was now Lecoqs turn to attempt to save the day and his men too attempted a counterattack on the Heights but by now the Prussians were too firmly established upon it and rather than expend his division in a pointless assault that could not be reinforced, he chose to fall back, covering the retreat and giving time for some units to rally. Soon both Sahrs and Duruttes formations recovered their order although a number of men were lost in the woods and did not return to the colours until after dark, sheepishly skulking into their camps during the night.
Bulow had been roughly handled, particularly by the Saxons initial tough defence. There was only a half-hearted pursuit by a few Hussar squadrons. By 10:00pm Reynier was back south of the woods where he had camped the previous night. That night Reynier reported to Oudinot that his corps was seriously demoralised following the collapse and could not fight the following day. Despite relatively light losses (3,000 French and Saxons and 13 guns to 1,000 Prussians and 5 guns), the road to Berlin had been closed to Oudinot. Napoleon was furious and replaced him with Ney, but the French did not get a second chance to take the Prussian capital.
Order of Battle:
French-Allied Army. 38,500 infantry, 2,000 cavalry and 132 guns plus 4 btn guns. No army commander.
VII Corps, General Reynier CC
24th (Saxon) Division, General LeCoq DC, Ex = 6
28th (Saxon) Division, General von Sahr DC, Ex = 6
32nd Division, General Durette DC, Ex = 5 (40% exhaustion)
IV Corps, General de Division Count Bertrand CC
15th (Italian) Division, General Fontanelli DC, Ex = 6 (40% exhaustion)
12th Division, General Morand DC, Ex = 6 (40% exhaustion)
18th (Wurttemberg) Division, General Franquemont DC, Ex = 5 (40% exhaustion)
Notes to the Allied Army:
1) Arrival points and times:
2) b-g = battalion guns attached, fld = field artillery, g = grenadiers present, hv = heavy artillery, lncr = lance armed cavalry, lt = light cavalry, [s] = may detach one skirmisher for each such symbol, ss = sharpshooter.
Prussian Army. 39,500 infantry, 7,500 cavalry and 120 guns. No army commander.
IV Corps, General Tauentzien CC
1st Brigade, Generallmajor Dobschutz DC, Ex = 4
2nd Brigade, Generallmajor Lindenau DC, Ex = 8
III Corps, Generalleutenant von Bulow CC
3rd Brigade, Generallmajor Borstall DC, Ex = 7
4th Brigade, Generallmajor Theumen DC, Ex= 9
5th Brigade, Generallmajor Hessen-Homberg DC, Ex= 6
6th Brigade, Generallmajor Kraft DC, Ex= 8
Reserve Cavalry Division, Generallmajor von Oppen DC, Ex= 4
Notes to the Prussian Army:
1) Deployment/arrival points and times:
2) fld = field artillery, g = grenadiers present, hv = heavy artillery, lncr = lance armed cavalry, lt = light cavalry, M = militia, md = medium cavalry, PT = poorly trained regulars, ss = sharpshooter, * = shock troops, sk = skirmisher, [s] = may detach one skirmisher for each such symbol, ss = sharpshooter.
1) Turn 1 is 9:00am. The battle ends at the end of the 7:00pm turn (dusk). The French-Allies are the attackers.
2) To win the French must occupy both Gross Beeren and the Windmill Heights with an infantry brigade on the last turn and have one division of each corps unexhausted at dusk. To win the Prussians must take Gross Beeren and the Windmill Heights (occupy both with a non-exhausted infantry brigade) by dusk and have two commands of III Corps unexhausted. Any other combination is a draw.
3) All the woods near the south map edge are woods, as is that astride the stream where it exits the north map edge. All others are open woods. The stream is marshy banked (in fact it ran in a steep sided ditch up to six feet deep. Classifying it as marshy has the appropriate effect in the rules). The two roads cross it by fords.
4) From the 3:00pm turn heavy rain begins to fall. Reduce all moves by a quarter and deduct one dice from all fire attacks except skirmishers and from infantry in villages and towns. Melee attacks are unaffected.
5) It is strongly recommended that Prussian IV corps deploys hidden (units marked on a map, only being placed on the table when Bertrands troops first have a LoS to them). For our refights we have a two foot square board with Blankenfeld at the centre with the woods and roads painted on. Prussian IV Corps player deploys his troops on this out of sight of the main table. We find this quicker and more accurate than sketching out a map for each game.
6) The Swedish troops are not represented since they took no part in the action, sitting on the fence as usual. However they were positioned just off map to the west, their picquets actually in the woods near Spitendorf. These troops effectively faced off Oudinots Corps.
7) The French command is best represented by two players who should not be permitted to form a joint plan beforehand, nor to communicate during the battle. Prussian IV Corps requires a player but III Corps is probably best run by two. Again, overall command control was lacking so a CinC player is not necessary.