Wissembourg -  4th August 1870

This scenario was prepared by Martin Soilleux-Cardwell

Historical Background:

4th August 1870, the first action of the Franco-Prussian War (excluding the push into Saarbrucken by elements of Frossard's French II Corps on 2nd August). This bloody little battle saw the unsupported division of Genl Douay of I Corps, with some attached cavalry, which was posted to watch the border, attacked in overwhelming but poorly co-ordinated strength by German 3rd Army. As the day wore on elements of one Bavarian and two Prussian Corps became embroiled in the fight which was notable by the complete lack of higher direction by the Prussians and blind offensive haste by their low level officers.

Douay held a very strong position but his force was too thinly stretched to hold it and his division was driven south by way of Riedseltz at dusk. Douay himself was killed in the early afternoon when a caisson of the divisional mitrailleuse battery exploded near him. Genl Pelle took up command and withdrew the remnants of the division.

Although Failly's V Corps was just a few miles away at Bitsche and the other three divisions of MacMahon's I Corps were a similar distance away to the south at Worth, neither moved to assist, despite the clear rumble of guns.

Order of Battle:

FRENCH ARMY, 7,000 men and 18 guns. Genl Abel Douay (DC, 2nd Division, I Corps - counts as AC)

Divisional Troops

  • Mitrailleuse Battery                                 M6 [ ] mg
  • Field Artillery Battalion                            M6 [ ][ ] rml-f

1st Brigade, Genl Montmarie (BC - counts as DC) Ex = 3

  • 1st & 3rd Bns, 50th Regt de Ligne                    M5 [ ][ ][ ]
  • 1st & 3rd Bns, 74th Regt de Ligne                    M5 [ ][ ][ ]

2nd Brigade, Genl Pelle (BC - counts as DC) Ex = 3

  • 2/74th Regt de Ligne & 1/1st Tirailleurs Algeriens   M6 [ ][ ][ ]*
  • 2nd & 3rd Bns, 1st Tirailleurs Algeriens             M6 [ ][ ][ ]*

Attached Light Cavalry Brigade, Genl Septeuil (BC - counts as DC) no exhaustion

  • 3rd Hussars (part) & 11th Chasseurs a Cheval (part)  M5 [s][s] lt

Detachment of reservists

  • Reservists                                           M4 [ ] sk (arrive turn 6 at Riedseltz)

French Notes:

1) The French ‘army’ is in fact only a division. The division comanders are in reality brigade commanders.

2) Key to codes: lt = light cavalry, mg = machine gun artillery, rml-f = rifled muzzle loading field artillery, sk = skirmisher, * = shock troops, [s] = strength point may be detached as a skirmisher.

3) The mixed 74th/Tirailleurs brigade of Pelle’s command is deployed in Wissembourg. The balance of Pelle’s command begins the game deployed within 3" of the Vogelsberg. Montmarie’s command begins the game deployed anywhere within 3" of Three Poplars Knoll or The Geissberg. Septeuil’s command begins the game deployed immediately south of the camp. The French artillery may be deployed anywhere on the high ground south of the river.

4) All infantry units may detach a 1-6 skirmisher (Pelle) or 1-5 skirmisher (Montmarie).

5) On turn 1 all French units are in command and Genl Douay may command any troops.

6) Douay was killed about 10:00. Genl Pelle is next in seniority. If Douay is killed, Pelle takes over command an hour later.

 

PRUSSIAN ARMY, 32,500 men and 54 guns. Genl von Hartmann (CC, II Bavarian Corps - counts as AC)

From II Bavarian Corps

4th Division, Genl von Bothmer DC Ex = 9

  • 9th Inf Regt                                         M4 [ ][ ][ ][ ][ ]
  • 1 Bn from each of 5th & 7th Inf Regts                M4 [ ][ ][ ][ ]
  • 1 Bn from each of 11th & 14th Inf Regts              M4 [ ][ ][ ][ ]
  • 6th Jager Bn                                         M5 [ ][ ] ss
  • 10th Jager Bn                                        M5 [ ][ ] ss
  • 2nd Cheveauleger Regt                                M5 [s] lt
  • Field Artillery Battery                              M5 [ ] rbl-f
  • Field Artillery Battalion                            M5 [ ][ ] rbl-f

(enter turn 1 N of Shneigen)

Elements, V Corps

9th Division, 17th Brigade (detachments, reinforced), Col Rex (RC - counts as DC) Ex = 3

Rex’s Column

  • 1st & Fus Bns, 58th Inf Regt                         M5 [ ][ ][ ][ ]
  • 5th Jager Bn (part)                                  M6 [ ] ss
  • 4th Dragoons                                         M5 [s] lt
  • Field Artillery Battery                              M6 [ ] rbl-f

(enter turn 2 in road column on road NE from Schweighoffen)

Elements, XI Corps

21st Division, 41st Brigade (reinforced), Genl von Schachtmeyer DC Ex = 8

Kablinski’s Column

  • 1st & 2nd Bns, 80th Inf Regt                         M5 [ ][ ][ ][ ]
  • Fus Bns, 80th & 87th Inf Regts                       M5 [ ][ ][ ][ ]
  • 1st & 2nd Bns, 87th Inf Regt                         M5 [ ][ ][ ]
  • 11th Jager Bn                                        M6 [ ][ ] ss
  • 13th Hussars & 14th Hussars (part)                   M5 [ ][ ]
  • Field Artillery Battery                              M6 [ ] rbl-f
  • Horse Artillery Battalion                            M6 [ ][ ] rbl-f

(enter turn 2 in woods on E table edge)

Elements, V Corps

9th Division, 17th Brigade (detachments, reinforced), Col von Bothmer (BC - counts as DC) Ex = 3

  • 1st & Fus Bns, 59th Inf Regt                         M5 [ ][ ][ ][ ]
  • 5th Jager Bn (part)                                  M6 [ ] ss
  • Field Artillery Battery                              M6 [ ] rbl-f

(enter turn 3 in road column on road NE from Schweighoffen)

Elements, XI Corps

21st Division, 42nd Brigade (detachments, reinforced), Genl von Thile (BC - counts as DC) Ex = 2

  • 1st Bn, 88th Inf Regt                               M5 [ ][ ]
  • 14th Hussars (part)                                 M5 [s] lt

(enter turn 3 at Schleithal)

Elements, V Corps

9th Division, 18th Brigade (reinforced), Genl von Voigts-Rhetz (BC - counts as DC) Ex = 7

  • 2 Bns, 7th (Konig) Grenadier Regt                   M5 [ ][ ][ ][ ]
  • 2 Bns, 47th Inf Regt                                M5 [ ][ ][ ][ ]
  • 1 Bn each (Konig) Gren Regt & 47th Inf Regt         M5 [ ][ ][ ][ ]
  • 14th Dragoons                                       M5 [s] md
  • Field Artillery Battery                             M6 [ ] rbl-f

(enter turn 4 in road column on road NE from Schweighoffen)

Elements, II Bavarian Corps

3rd Division, 5th Brigade Genl von Schleich DC Ex = 2

  • 1st & 3rd Bns, 6th Inf egt                          M4 [ ][ ][ ][ ]

(enter turn 5 in road column N of Shneigen)

Prussian Notes:

1) The Prussian ‘army’ is an ad hoc affair comprised of parts of three Army Corps which arrives onto the field to the sound of the guns. The fragmented organisation reflects this. There is no overall army commander. Genl von Hartmann of II Bavarian Corps is the senior officer but he may only act as an army commander to Bavarian troops. Other Prussian formations are autonomous. Most ‘division’ commanders listed are in fact brigade or even regimental commanders.

2) Key to codes: lt = light cavalry, md = medium cavalry, rbl = rifled breech loading artillery (f = field, h = heavy), ss = sharpshooter, [S] = may detach a SP as a skirmisher

General Scenario Notes:

1) The terrain south of the river and west of the woods was quite broken with numerous small farms, copses and vinyards. It counts as close terrain. A unit may move up to half it’s movement allowance and remain ordered. If a unit moves over half it’s move allowance it becomes disordered. This does not apply to skirmishers. Changes of facing are included as movement, so a unit could change facing and move half it’s move and remain ordered but if it were to change face, move half and change face again (a permited move on clear terrain) it would become disordered.

2) French orders are to hold up the enemy advance then fall back, delaying him as long as possible. Due to the overwhelming Prussian strength, victory or defeat is calculated by how long certain features are held by the French. Consult the following table:

The French gain:

  • 10 points for each turn the enemy does not occupy the town of Wissembourg
  • 4 points for each turn the enemy does not occupy Wissembourg railway station
  • 4 points for each turn the enemy does not occupy the Geissberg chateau
  • 1 point for each turn the enemy does not occupy the French camp
  • 2 points for each lost strength point the enemy suffers
  • 2 points for each strength point exited between the villages of Riedseltz and Rott after 14:00 (move 6)

Check points totals of two sides. If one has a 50% or more advantage, it wins a decisive victory. With less than 50% and at least 25%, marginal victory. Less that 25% is a draw.

3) The River Lauter is uncrossable except at the two road bridges and the railway bridge.

4) The woods to north and south are open. The large wood to the east is open but counts as broken terrain too - see the Lobositz scenario.

5) Wissembourg is a recently declassified fortress and has some walls standing. Defenders get an extra save against fire and melee, and one save against fire from heavy guns. It can only be assaulted on the three faces that have gates.

6) Schleithal and Wissembourg are one town block, all other villages and the station are one village block.

7) Wissembourg railway station was a complex of sidings and maze of well built industrial buildings. Occupants of it get an extra save against fire and melee but not an extra save from heavy guns.

8) The Vogelsberg, Three Poplars Knoll and Geissberg are second contours. Each should be 4 to 5 inches across.

9) Three Poplars Knoll is the highest point of the hill. The first contour below it and east of the road was heavily cultivated with vineyards. Count this contour as broken ground or vineyards from the Lobositz scenario.

10) The Geissberg had a peculiar aspect. Artillery on it could shell the town and railway station and the railway line and road running south. However the vineyards on the lower slopes meant the Prussians could not bring it under

effective artillery fire until they got their guns up onto Three Poplars Knoll which dominated the Geissberg. Rule: Artillery and infantry on the Geissberg (2nd contour) or lower slopes (1st contour) may shoot unhindered down onto lower ground (subject to the vineyards LoS rule). The Geissberg itself is clear of cultivation. Infantry on the 1st contour may shoot up against the Geissberg subject to the vineyards LoS rule. Artillery may not fire at the Geissberg from any point except Three Poplars Knoll.

11) The Geissberg Chateau was a strongly built manor house with high curtain walls which the defenders loopholed. There was just one gate, facing north. Represent it with a village block with the capacity to hold one skirmisher stand. As with Wissembourg occupants get an extra save from fire and melee and one save from heavy artillery fire. It can only be assaulted from the north face by one unit at a time.

12) The Prussians attack. Turn 1 is 08:00. The game ends when the last French unit is eliminated or leaves the table, or at the end of the 8:00pm turn.

Map:

 


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