Battle of Sacile 1809 seems to be a reoccurring scenario for the WR. I wrote up the scenario back in January 2012 for a HMGS-PSW convention game, played to a French win per Sacile 1809 AAR posted February 2012. Used the same scenario for a Strategicon convention at LAX February 2013 for an Austrian win. This past month, pending a late decision on the monthly game at Bob’s garage (every third saturday in Manhattan beach CA), WR suggested Sacile 1809. A pre-made package 1809 scenario, somewhat balanced in forces and a fun scenario with ebb and flow of forces. We had miniatures in abundance between the arriving gamers, including newly painted French 1809 era infantry divisions by Paul and Dan, eager for the tabletop stress of battle. So Sacile 1809 it was and this post game AAR written up.
Sacile Preview report posted in January 2012 covers the forces, rosters, terrain, and scenario notes (link): Sacile 1809 Preview.
First a duplicated copy of the scenario terrain map for reader to understand the terrain then the description of opening 0900 hours starting positions for both sides.
0900 hours (Scenario start): The drying out northern Italian countryside was peaceful until the sounds of mud laden feet in unison is heard. The French Army of Northern Italy, under Viceroy Eugene de Beauharnais, is on the march during the early morning hours, hoping to catch the Austrian Army of Italy, under Archduke Johann aka WR, in the flank or unprepared for battle. The early stages of scenario battle are set for the massed appearance of several French infantry divisions, along with light cavalry support, upon the Austrian advance guard command near Procia. Awaken by signal musketry, the Austrian advance guard division under GM Frimont deploys quickly for battle. Some fusilier battalions positioned around or in Procia, other grenzer battalions skirmishing against the fast advancing 1st Italian division (GD Severoli). A small Austrian cavalry brigade under GM Splenyi (just off the table) is quickly summoned to apply pressure on the open right flank of nearby supporting French 1st division (GD Seras).
French deployment (l to r): French 2nd division (GD Broussier at Vigonovo, 3rd French division (GD Grenier) at Fontana-Fredda, Italian 1st division approaching Taiponedo and 1st French division (GD Seras) marching before Procia. Starting off the tabletop is 1st Light cavalry (GB Sahac), Army HQ for Eugene, and 5th French division (GD Barbou) all near Fontana-Fredda entrance point. Note the French map counters have the correct divisional number labeling to assist readers with locating these commands on the map.
Austrian deployment: GM Frimont’s advance guard is positioned around Procia (infantry in village, cavalry regiments directly behind) plus one detached grenzer battalion in Taiponedo. Just off the right scenario map by Procia has the cavalry brigade of GM Splenyi entering the tabletop. Arriving on the opening 0900 hours turn is the entire Austrian VIII corps in upper right scenario map corner near Rorai Grande. Austrian VIII corps consists of two infantry commands: “Left wing” command under GML Colloredo and “Right wing” command under GM Gajoli, then followed by the corp’s headquarters and reserve artillery batteries. Austrians always seem to call their commands unusual names and not the typical 1st, 2nd, 5th numeral titles like other nations. A small detachment column under Oberst Volkmann enters on the northern scenario tabletop edge. Volkmann’s command was a sort of flanking vanguard for the entire IX corps which was slow to start their morning march arrival to the battle. Not your typical line them up and go forward to glory miniature battle but maneuvering and strength vs weakness matchups abound.
Note: The use of wooden tabletop blocks for reserve formation maneuvering is covered on this blog post and link: Tabletop Blocks usage
0920 hours: After two turns of forward movement the right flank Franco-Italian 1st infantry divisions are nearing Procia. Skirmishing between the Italian voltiguers, Italian chasseur a’ cheval and the deployed grenzer battalion liven the action so far. Cavalry brigade GM Splenyi arrives and slowly works their forward progress around the blocking vineyards as open order skirmishers.
West of Procia an Austrian hussar regiment trots forward and charges the advancing Italian infantry. Quickly the Italian chasseurs a’ cheval closed ranks and countercharge the approaching Austrian hussars led in person by GD Severoli. Surprised by the resolute Italians, the Austrian hussars are defeated and retires but left Italian GD Severoli severely wounded on the battlefield. The first of seven commanders to fall wounded or killed during the scenario battle.
0940 hours: French skirmishers occupy one of the buildings of Procia after the protecting Austrian battalion fled from a French chasseur a’ cheval column roadway cavalry charge plus overran the Austrian kavalry battery nearby. Countercharging Austrian hussars rode up and chased away the disordered French cavalry but the French had seized half of Procia village.* Meanwhile, the 1st Italian division continues their steady advance supporting French 1st division under GD Seras. For the Austrians, GM Frimont’s advance guard is fully engaged, GM Splenyi cavalry brigade is constrained in the small valley below Procia, and the slow marching Austrian VIII corps is still deploying behind Procia.
* Note: Early French total control of Procia (two turns) prevents the Austrian IX corps from performing their historical flanking march and instead restricts arrival behind the Austrian VIII corps position. This is an early primary objective for team France. Sacile scenario notes file (.doc): Sacile 1809 Scenario notes
1000 hours: The battlefield action expands. Austrian battalion counterattack seeks to eject the French residents of Procia. Alongside the battalion columns, Austrian hussars form ranks and prepare to charge the exposed French battalion column below Procia. General skirmishing action continues in the table center between the Italians and GM Frimont’s grenzers. Column Volkmann’s advance across the open battlefield slowly exposes the marching French divisional masses entering around Fontana-Fredda.
The Austrian hussar charge near Procia routed the exposed French battalion but the Austrian infantry attack into Procia failed to dislodge the French “new resident” battalion. Austrian GM Splenyi falls light wounded in his arm for two turn of play.
1020 hours: French mass a column against the Austrian held half of Procia while the grand skirmishing action continues outside the village. GM Frimont’s advance guard command is bending from the increasing Franco-Italian pressure while Austrian VIII corps finishes their command deployments behind Procia.*
Note: Takes a complete stationary movement phase to change from morale disordered strategic march mode (formation columns only) into proper battle mode. Battle mode allows all formation types – line, column, square and open order.
1040 hours: Having lost the last building of Procia to the French column, the Austrians must attempt to retake a portion of Procia before the French control the complete village for two turns. The deployment of VIII Corps is complete, the two Austrian “Left and Right wing” commands advance their lines into battle fronted by the grenzer skirmishers. Another Austrian battalion column crashes into the recently taken Procia position, led by FML Colloredo himself from Left wing command.
Column Volkmann presents their “we are outnumbered” look and slowly retires to open the range from the growing French masses. Scenario notes prevent total French advance past a map line on the tabletop unless pre-releasing the entire Austrian IX corps early. Wise French players elect to hold up their massive general advance till the village of Procia is taken causing restrictions on the arriving Austrian IX corps.
1100 hours: French Army of Italy is advancing on a broad front across the open terrain. Their plan is to have total control of Procia before 1200 hours and restrict the arrival of Austrian IX corps behind VIII corp’s position and not out on the flanking northern tabletop edge option. Then, before IX corps can assist, they can flank the expose right flank of Austrian VIII corps and condense the Austrian Army of Italy into the northeast corner of the tabletop battlefield. Seems like a good French plan…. but there is one hidden faux pas.
While the Austrian battalion column batter the Procia building front, French 1st division mass their own counterattack infantry column on their side of the village. Austrian Right wing commander GM Gajoli killed by French cannon fire, directing the lead battalions to hold their position.
The Austrian battalion assault fails under French musketry and élan. Possible time for one more attempt to wrestle control back from the French before the flanking movement arrival of Austrian IX corps is upset.
1120 hours: Too late, French deploy their skirmishers in front of Procia and, due to the additional delay clearing them, the Austrian assault to retake Procia cannot be attempted in time before the French have triggered the restricted redeployment march on for Austrian IX corps (French hold Procia for two complete game turns). Time for the Austrian brain trust to formulate a new scenario battle plan since the grand flanking option is now denied the Austrian generalship.
With French control of Procia, Austrian IX corps will be restricted to the same entrance points as VIII corps, thus the general restriction on the French Army of Northern Italy crossed the map square 4 row line is lifted. French 3rd division (Grenier) quickly marches forward and Column Volkmann sees massed Frenchmen approaching rapidly. Flanking GB Sahac’s light cavalry rides further to flank the retiring Volkmann column while both 2nd and 5th French infantry divisions advance forward in support.
While the units of Austrian VIII corps stop Franco-Italian forward movement, their corp’s commander, FML Albert Gyulai, was seriously wounded and thrown from his horse. With his loss the corp’s morale drops for two complete game turns.* If the French had any reinforcement reserves behind their 1st French or 1st Italian divisions, VIII corps would be in serious trouble due to the temporary loss of morale.
* Note: Loss of a senior commander causes the morale of units under his command to drop one CMR for two complete game turns. After the two turns, a replacement officer is promoted from attached commanders under the former commander’s control.
1140 hours: Since retaking Procia is temporarily beyond Austrian control, they shuffle additional battalions towards their exposed Right wing command against the massing French left-wing advance. While directly his battalions, GM Gajoli is randomly hit and killed causing some disruption in the Austrian chain of command. Aggressive French chasseurs a’ cheval charge forth and cause some discomfort with the loss of an 6lb brigade battery near Procia.
Column Volkmann’s battalions joins with the Right wing command of VIII corps. Before them the fast marching 3rd French division under GD Grenier approaches with unlimbered 8lb batteries and several massed regimental columns. Dan’s new miniatures looking good in their massed columns. Fresh unseasoned miniature blood for the tabletop grinder.
In the center Austrian VIII corps presents a strong front line but thin on reserves. Another French division, 5th Infantry under GD Barbou, deploys and advances to support the battered Italian division (exceeding 20% losses). Paul’s newly painted French miniatures enter the tabletop as GD Barbou’s division.
Edge on view of the entire tabletop battle. Procia village in the foreground and extends towards the distant French slowly flanking masses. But wait…. the first signs of IX corps arrival are seen in the lower right corner of the photograph. They have a long march to secure the Austrian Army of Italy’s right flank.
Blazingly wild French chasseur a’ cheval column charges at the hinge of the Austrian front line. After causing morale disorder in several battalions (marked by turning a miniature around in formation), a weak but brave Austrian hussar detachment, with Oberst Volkmann leading, confronts the charging French light cavalry. They lose the sword fight but morale disrupt the column of French chassuer a’ cheval regiment who morale disorder again from the following phase of Austrian artillery bombardment. Two morale disorders = rout so they quickly rout to the rear causing French morale disruption in their wake.
1200 hours: French team players slow their forward progress beyond Procia seeing the arrival of Austrian IX corps commands in the tabletop corner. Their marching left flank divisions continue their sweep towards the Austrian open flank of Austrian VIII corps causing concern with Archduke Johann staff. The well placed reserve artillery batteries of VIII corps rip holes in the stationary 1st Italian division battalions while skirmishers ply their trade between the lines.
1220 hours: Archduke WR Johann has his new battle plan. Sending the Austrian IX corps’ huge 1st Line infantry command and small 3rd Line cavalry command towards the exposed Austrian right flank, he orders the 2nd Line command (grenadiers and grenzers) to storm Procia assisted by the Left wing command of VIII corps. Will take a few turns to evolve but the French high command players seem to be unsure of their next movements till Austrian IX corps is committed. Just got to love Austrian command nomenclature to confuse. On the front lines the artillery batteries bombard and skirmishers pop off their muskets with the 1st French and 1st Italian divisions suffering from the renewed Austrian cannon fire.
The French left flank masses stately march across the open Italian countryside. GB Sahac’s light cavalry brigade charges to clear the last withdrawing infantry but find a resolute Austrian fusilier battalion in square. French hussars are rebuffed in their efforts to crush the square and left GB Sahac killed on the ground outside the square. Scattered and exposed Austrian 3lb brigade batteries peck the French columns with their lightweight shot. Still, the Austrian exposed flank cannot stop any massive French assaults till the delayed 1st Line command of IX corps arrives.
1240 hours: Austrian grenadier columns arrive to prepare for their advance , with local Austrian fusilier battalion support, into Procia. The French higher command start to talk… can we hold Procia from the Austrian grenadiers? For now yes… but WR as Archduke Johann has a bigger surprise forthcoming. Austrian ADC’s ride forth for the Austrian team players to “talk up” the huge reinforcements arriving behind the Austrian front lines. The French players see the two wooden blocks marching behind the Austrian front lines…. they start to create “wild imaginary commentary.” Austrian psychological operation head games are working for the moment.
The fog of war is lifted. The huge Austrian 1st Line command is deployed just behind the forming artillery concentration central to the Austrian front lines. Thirteen large fusilier battalions and attached grenzers. They are deployed looking massive in number and depth, the “white coat” blob” certainly catches the French player’s attention. But the real threat is before the Austrian infantry mass… the massed Austrian reserve artillery batteries of both VIII and IX corps. Six batteries of positional artillery unlimber within normal range to bombard the French center position. French 5th Division and 1st Italian are going to see many cannon ball bouncing through their ranks. Out on the French flanking advance GD Grenier (3rd division) is killed by stray Austrian bullet.
1300 hours: The roar of the massed Austrian artillery batteries stops French forward movements. French battalions quickly form into linear formation to limit the damage from the Austrian cannon. The Austrian “grand battery” so to speak has stopped the advancing 5th French division cold. The 1st Italian division, weakened by the losses from combat all morning long, cannot advance either. That just leaves the French 3rd division to continue their wheeling advance with GB Sahac’s light cavalry. But even that advance is held up by the arrival of the Austrian 3rd Line heavy cavalry command who promptly stop the notion of trotting forward with French light cavalry. A hasty French staff player conference is called… what to do? They elect to hold their positions for now and see the Austrian next movement while holding in reserve the 2nd French division (Broussier) behind 3rd division’s position. The unnamed replacement brigadier for Austrian Right wing command is killed by French skirmisher firing.
1320 hours: The Austrians don’t wait. Having pinned in place the French wheeling mass with concentrated Austrian cannon fire, the Austrian Right wing command, Volkmann’s column and heavy cavalry of the 3rd Line (IX corps), Archduke Rabbit (Johann) orders the finishing plan for defeat of the French army of Italy. Austrian grenadiers and grenzers, along with the Austrian Left wing command fusilier battalions, will cause the fall of Procia. The grand body mass of thirteen fusilier battalions and attached grenzer of 1st Line command will advance, not at the transfixed French 3rd (Grenier) and 5th division (Barbou) as spoken about in the Austrian player ranks, but directly at the weak 1st Italian division. Break through there and the French 1st division under GD Seras (in Procia area) will be cut off. The French can only hold in place and be defeated in detail or advance their left-wing infantry divisions into the mouths of the massed austrian cannon batteries.
French players decide… hold in place on their massed left flank but send orders for their right flank commands. The 1st French and 1st Italian divisions to slowly retire before the austrian resurgence.
1340 hours: Procia falls to the first austrian grenadier rush. The French 1st division (Seras), having taken then held Procia for most of the battle post-haste retires behind the weak defensive front of the 1st Italian division. Austrian round shot is cutting down 5th division (Barbou) Frenchmen in droves as several battalion waver in their positions. The austrian entire left flank advances… the 1st Italian division will be swamped in numbers on next turn.
With French infantry falling to bouncing round shot, the french 5th division (Barbou) retires a bit to open the range but Austrian positional artillery has a long-range reach*. French 3rd division (dead Grenier) holds their open ground and extends into linear formations. All forward French movement is halted while the Austrian cannon roar and “Right wing” command, along with Column Volkmann, form up to hold any tempted French advance.
* Note: All positional artillery in our game has the same range as 12lb artillery. So any positional 6lb, 8lb, 9lb or 16lb battery has the same range gradients as 12lb positional artillery batteries. Heavier (earlier period) cannon carriages, increased ammunition supply train, use of civilian driver in early years, oxen or elephant teams, and nationalistic tactical (stationary) artillery doctrine all label artillery batteries as “positional.” A positional 6lb battery has less firepower % effect compared to a 12lb positional battery but both have the same range gradients to engage their targets. The main disadvantage of positional artillery is the inability to limber, change firing position, and unlimber, all in the same movement phase. Regular non-positional artillery (field and horse artillery) can perform these tasks and quickly face enemy counter movements.
1400 hours: The writing is on the French wall. Scenario is called by the French team side as their 1st Italian division is crushed by the advancing Austrian horde. French 1st division (Seras) is legging it to the rear French lines just ahead of the pursuing Austrian grenadier headed columns. The collapse of the French right flank divisions forces the 5th division (Barbou) to retire even more distance under artillery fire and in time, will expose the French 3rd division (dead Grenier) to the combined Austrian artillery firepower and Austrian heavy dragoon drawn sabers. The French 2nd division (Broussier) never saw tabletop action during the entire scenario.
Summary: Interesting Austrian win as the French team retired from the battlefield during the night since they couldn’t hold the battlefield. Scenario victory conditions gives the Austrians a solid “draw” result with leaning towards Austrian “Marching forward” (minor) victory… the historical result.
WR’s thoughts on the scenario play. The initial Austrian battle plan was to hold and contest the Procia position while waiting for the grand flanking march of Austrian IX corps to appear. With Austrian IX corps descending on the French rear commands around Vigonovo, and threatening French line of communications off table, any French battle plan would become defensive in nature and allow the Austrians to push the French off the tabletop using classical open terrain Austrian battle line formations. But the French player team were too successful taking Procia early on in the scenario gameplay thereby causing the arrival of Austrian IX Corps behind the VIII corp’s position. WR then just changed the axis of attack, after a bit of Austrian psychological operation head games on intent. from appearance of just reinforcing the Austrian right flank to assaulting the weak 1st Italian division, supported and screened by the massive artillery reserve battery well positioned centrally. Having all the French reserves uncommitted on their left flank greatly assisted the Austrian revised battle plan.
The French game plan was leading to early success but the lack of a supportive reserve division on their right flank was telling. Their huge 2nd division (Broussier) never saw the tabletop, standing in reserve behind the French left flank. If the Austrian IX corps did arrive on the northern map entrance points then 2nd infantry division would be positioned to block the Austrian advance along with 3rd division (Grenier). WR suggests a better plan would have been quickly transfer 5th division (Barbou) behind the 1st Italian division and then advance French 2nd and 3rd divisions, plus GB Sahac’s light cavalry brigade towards the exposed VIII corps flank. If the Austrian IX corps appeared on the northern entrance points, because Procia wasn’t controlled by French side before 1200 hours, then these two fresh French infantry divisions, plus GB Sahac’s light cavalry, would hold the Austrian IX corps open terrain advance while the fresh 5th Infantry division took Procia and threatened the Austrian LOC behind Procia (at Rorai Grande), supported by the battalions and cavalry of 1st French division and 1st Italian. The Austrian VIII corps would have been hard pressed to stop the advance of these three Franco-Italian divisions without help from Austrian IX corps, hopefully tied in place by the actions of 2nd and 3rd divisions.
WR thanks all who played the Sacile 1809 scenario. Team France was Paul, Andy, Dan while the Austrians fielded Bob, Dave and WR. Till next month the dice are still.
Cheers from the warren.