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republique : aar — stuck :

Stuck on a Limb (or Where not to put a Division)
In this battle, three 1807 style Russian combined-arms divisions slugged it out with an ad-hoc column of French troops composed of one division of French line infantry, a small division of Old Guard and a large division of line dragoons. The Russian position was a line of low rises which ran from their right rear to their left center. The entire position was cut in two by a large, wood covered hill which thrust into their center from the rear. The French occupied a flat area of farms and orchards which offered little in the way of cover from Russian artillery.

The Russians attempted to hold their entire position by deploying one division to the left-center rise, and two divisions to the right flank, with the heavily wooded hill between them. This virtually guaranteed that the left division could not be supported once action began. The Russians attempted to compensate for this by filling the woods with jagers. While this certainly offered a very stable right flank for the left division, it did not change that division's ultimate vulnerability.

The French disposition was a fairly non-committal "wait and see" affair. The line infantry was placed opposite the Russian "left hill" while the line dragoons were placed opposing the leading edge of the woods (to interfere with the passage of any Russian troops from one side to the other. The guard was kept in reserve to the rear of the dragoons, in a position to either move into the empty French left, or support an attack from the French right.

The Battle:
Initial dispositions really decided this battle, which didn't last very long. The French willingness to "drop" their left flank, and the Russian unwillingness to do the same doomed the Russian left-center division. The French commander began the game by issuing immediate orders for his line division to sweep around the Russian left, while the guard division moved obliquely to the right, joining the French line artillery in a pinning attack against the front of the Russian infantry division occupying the left-center hill. The French dragoon division held their original position, helping to slow down any movement in the direction of the now stranded Russian division. This turned out not to be necessary, because the Russian command could not get their Defend orders for the two right-flank division changed for several turns, resulting in an hour or so of battlefield delay before these two forces began the slightest movement forward.

In the meantime, the Russian player attempted unsuccessfully to change the orders for the "division on the hill." And so with no other orders available, that division hunkered down and prepared to receive the French "pinning" attack. Because the pinning attack itself was carried out by two regiments of Old Guard supported by cavalry and some line artillery, it was a fairly substantial assault all in itself. The two Russian dragoon brigades stationed to the right of the hill were a significant threat, so the French guard advanced with the left regiment in square, and the right regiment in echeloned line. Just before the guard hit the Russian line, the French commander decided that his line infantry needed to tighten its approach (the order change was successful, and the French player modified the movement arrow for his line infantry division). This reduced the flanking effect of the move, but also brought the line infantry into action one or two turns sooner, thereby preventing the two guard regiments from being mobbed by an entire Russian division. This turned out to be a sound decision, since the Russians on the hill put up a stiff fight, disordering the guard units before being pushed back and leaving the guards vulnerable to excessive casualties and/or other local embarrassments.

Just as the Russians were trying to sort themselves out from the guard assault which had pushed onto the right-front edge of the hill, the French line division plowed onto the left-front of the hill, leaving a generous firing lane for the French artillery deployed to the hill's front. Where was the Russian artillery during all of this? Half of it had been stationed in the open ground between the hill and the woods in order to preventing a double flanking maneuver against the hill. They fired with little effect at the approaching French guard and further into the distance at the French dragoons. The remaining Russian artillery for that division was placed on the hill in direct support of the infantry, and was part of the reason for the French guard's (relatively) slow progress. Once all French units were on the scene however, the Russian position was quickly taken apart piece by piece. The Russians shielded their reforming units with well formed regiments, and attempted to move the guard off of the hill with their dragoons. But the combination of concentrated artillery fire and selective assaults by elite and veteran infantry swept the Russians out of their position. At this point, the French guard cavalry, which had been shot up during the pinning attack, was reformed and able to start a pursuit of the Russian fugitives.

At about the time that the "guys on the hill" were being over-run, the two Russian divisions on the right finally got their orders to move out and attack the French left. Unfortunately their command arrows took them along the same route, so they ended up advancing on a one division front against a prepared cavalry division. The French dragoons however, were not able to fully face the advancing Russians without exposing their right flank to enfilade fire from the surviving Russian artillery between the woods and recently taken hill. As they pulled back (after rolling for order change) to allow the passage of the Russians, the Russian commander decided to attempt another change of orders to prevent his remaining divisions from walking single-file into a vortex of French dragoons, artillery and guards. This time his attempts were mostly successful. The rear division rolled successfully for order change and was returned to its original position. The other division was slowed as much as possible, and on the following turn it also succeeded in beginning the retrograde move back into its original position. This was achieved with little loss and effectively signalled the end of the battle. There was not enough time left in the day for another attack be either side, and the French did not consider an attack on the other two Russian division to be worthwhile until more troops could be brought up.

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