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republique : aar — davout :

Davout vs The Russians (all of them)
Setting: The sleepy little town of Mlava rests on the west bank of a small, non-fordable stream which run from the southwest to the northeast. The stream bends sharply west just south of town, wrapping around two sides, the eastern and southern sides. About a half mile north of town is a group of large farm buildings, and over a mile west of town is a low ridge, with scattered intervening areas of woods and farmland. The 10th Russian division was bivouacked around the farm north of Mlava, the 7th was bivouacked in Mlava itself, the 12th division was moving west of town and the 18th division was moving northwest, having just cut northwest across the highway which runs due west from Mlava. The Austrian division was bivouacked next to a small hill approximately two miles north of Mlava. French dispositions were simple, with Friant's division deployed in battle order just over a mile due west of Mlava, Morand's division deployed immediately to the north, straddling the main road, and Gudin's division to the north of of the road, deployed along the low ridge. All French divisions were facing east, and their artillery was converged into a massed battery which covered the open area on both side of the main highway. The front of the French position was split by a long, narrow area of woods which ran east from the base of the ridge, almost all the way to the edge of Mlava. These woods effectively split the ensuing combat into two distinct halves.

Despite being grossly outnumbered (nearly two to one), the French player was the attacker, and decided to attempt a daring "roll up" of the Russian left, which was poorly organized. In pursuance of this, Friant's division was immediately double timed forward, while the massed battery to his left blazed away at the Russian 12th division which had just noticed French troops to its front. Unaware that it faced more than a picket line (e.g. - the Russian player was unable to roll for an order change), the 12th continued their advance toward the French massed battery and the right flank of Friant's division. By the time he realized the true extent of the French troops to his front (must have been a hazy morning), it was too late for the 12th's commander to save himself. While Davout's massed battery continued to disorder and kill men throughout the division, Friant's troops quickly outflanked and broke up the remainder, who broke and streamed back into Mlava, carrying panic and disorder with them. While this was going on, the Russian 18th division continued its stolid advance, passing north of the "highway woods" and then advancing due west toward the right front of Gudin's ridge-line positions. The Austrian division, first of the three bivouacked divisions to get moving, began to push southwest in vague support of the 18th's advance. The other two Russian divisions were eventually put into motion, albeit with some delay.

The day's fighting peaked when Friant's division swept into the vulnerable west side of Mlava, routing all before them and overrunning five batteries of Russian artillery which had been carelessly parked along the bank of the river south of town. At the same time, the Russian 18th division hit Gudin's line out west of town, but was bloodily repulsed by a fierce local combined arms defense by the French. By this time, the Russian 7th and 10th division were marching into the combat zone in a helpful if uninspired maneuver which managed to place more warm bodies in the gap quickly forming in the Russian line. The 7th was echeloned forward, and passed north of Mlava, taking the same path that the 12th division took an hour earlier. By this point in the battle, Friant's men in Mlava had a choice of either allowing the two fresh Russian divisions to march past them, or attempting to catch them in the flank. Unfortunately the French dragoon reserve had not followed Friant's advance as closely as it might have, and so Friant was denied this valuable resource. He nevertheless decided on the bold option, and while using a third of his division to pin the remnants of the Russian 12th division in the east side of Mlava, the remainder pounded into the left flank of the passing Russian 7th division. After a running series of assaults, firefights and house to house melees, the French were unable to budge the new Russian division, nor were they able to clean out the remainder of Mlava. At the same time, the Austrian division arrived on the line adjoining the now reforming Russian 18th division, and in the near distance could be seen the Russian 10th division marching out to join the 18th and the Austrians. With an obviously ugly counterattack forming, Friant was ordered to withdraw back to his start line under cover the the dragoon reserve which had (finally) arrived in his section of the line. The Russians, whose command was unable to respond to the rapid French withdrawal, simply but convincingly stayed with their original plan, and advanced on a broad front, with the now spent 12th division holding Mlava, with the 7th division pinning the French artillery, cavalry and Friant to his front, and the remainder advancing against a now apprehensive Gudin. Fortunately for the French player, Morand, who had been held in a reserve position in anticipation of this attack, was able to file into the line south of Gudin, thereby allowing the French to post a solid defense line running from the main road just west of the Highway Woods, and along the crest of the main ridge to the north. Within a few turns the joint Russian-Austrian assault came hurtling in, bit it made little progress. The Russian light infantry was not able to adequately protect their own line infantry from French skirmish fire, and so many of the attacks were partially broken up and disordered by the time they reached the main French line. Two such attempts resulted in disappointing losses for the Austrians and Russians before they finally backed off for the day. The battle finally sputtered to a halt in the middle of the afternoon, with both sides unable to make any offensive moves due to terrain, inadequate numbers and worn troops.

Comments: The Russian player was hamstrung from the start by the scattered nature of his troops. Only the great approach distance made by the French divisional commanders (especially Friant) allowed the Russians time to get their men into motion. Had the French been able to start slightly closer, or had they known to place their cavalry behind Friant from the very beginning, they could have swept through Mlava before having to fight the Russian reinforcements. As it was, the sudden appearance of a division of French troops pounding into "their" town was a severe shock to the Russians, whose great numbers allowed them to recover quite well.

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