While perusing the warren’s book library, WR’s eye wandered to a book titled Castiglione 1796 (info below). For reasons unknown, but maybe just WR’s known interest of off beat battles, the book was read again over several nights, leading to thoughts of finally putting down scenario information on Bonaparte’s early 1796 campaign battles. Not just the famous ones like Montenotte, Lodi, Arcole and Rivoli, but bring some uncommon early 1796 Italian battles to the tabletop. So, using Bonaparte’s arrival of March 28th as a start date, the first major action didn’t even involve Bonaparte. The Battle of Voltri 1796 started with the French government action towards the neutral Republic of Genoa. Events unfolded with a French infantry column (GB Pijon replaced later by GB Cervoni) marching to Genoa to back French claims given by representative-on-mission Saliceti. The Austrians, under the recently promoted Feldzeugmeister Beaulieu, reacted with their own invasion of the neutral Genoese state on the March 31st. Several days pass and Beaulieu elected to march on GB Cervoni’s positions along the coastal Mediterranean shore. His plan was for two columns to “surround” Cervoni along the coast and force the French Army of Italy outposts back towards Savona.
Wikipedia link Voltri 1796 gives basic summary of events and the march up to the actual battle (March 31st to April 10th 1796).
A map showing the major battles and marches for the April 1796 campaign.
To the scenario…. As per my normal scenario pattern, I present hand-drawn maps below with a clear view of the map terrain and the starting location of both sides. There was a lot of ground and distance between the opening French positions. To show the “surrounding” attempt I elected to play both Austrian “columns” on the same scenario map. Player could break these actions into two separate tabletop actions…but then the total effect may be lost.
The full Voltri 1796 scenario and play notes, including scenario set up, terrain notes, weather, order of battle, victory conditions and optional special event cards: Voltri 1796 Scenario notes (.doc)
French and Austrian rosters: Voltri 1796 Austro-French Rosters (.xls)
Players could select a French scenario option to allow the French player some control as to the make up of each French command. Thus the French player could play a weakened command rearguard action against one Austrian column and transfer additional battalions (in secret before game start) to the other French command starting location, with the aim to overwhelm and destroy (by losses or push-off map) the isolated Austrian command column. Then quickly march back to confront the other Austrian column before it reaches Voltri in true “early Bonaparte” style.
At the conclusion of the Voltri action, General Bonaparte realized the opportunity to strike the hinge point of the Austrian Lombardy army and the Piedmont / Sardinian army. Instead of launching his own planned offensive campaign on April 15th, the Austrians started the French campaign early. On April 11th the Austrian advance started the battle at Monte Negino (Legino) and the French defense lead to the following day French counterattack at Montenotte…which lead to Dego, Millesimo, Cosseria, Mondovi, ending with the retreat and armistice with Sardinia.
Some of the references WR used towards scenario creation and the “feel” for the campaign in general. Nafziger’s booklet (upper left) is loaded with terrain notes and opening Montenotte campaign information. Napoleon book has several uniform and location plates while Castiglione gave in-depth organizational information for the theater of operations. Road to Rivoli covers not just the opening movements but the entire 1796 campaign across the Po river valley.
Rules of Play: Napoleonic rules, Files and Videos has a rules section providing files; charts, table and game play example YouTube videos.
After WR has finished painting up his small Austrian 1796 era miniature collection (15 regiments at 2×9 each), WR intends to play test this small afternoon scaled scenario, using the historical regiments in miniature, and give a report on the WR blog. After Voltri, the opening campaign events around Montenotte and Dego will surely deserve the scenario writeup and give WR an excuse to use his newly minted 1796 era Austrians again vs. the larger republican French miniature collection.