Being the 101st post on the WR blog, WR decided for a change of presentation and authorship on this blog post. Recently, a fellow gaming friend Dan Munson ran a 15mm Napoleonic scenario on the Battle of Halle October 1806 using his early 15mm Prussian and French miniature collection, terrain, and a set of 15mm napoleonic rules from another gaming associate S. Phenow. After read his reported AAR, WR asked to post the same unedited report on WR and share with the world. In Dan’s own words, his photographs, using S. Phenow’s “La Bataille” (LB) rule system, the Battle of Halle 1806 report is reprinted below. WR only added some photograph commentary and background file pictures to provide some additional detail.
Battle of Halle October 17, 1806 with Marechal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte vs. Eugene Frederick Henry, Duke of Württemberg reported by the “Paris Times” correspondent Dan Munson (on assignment Prussia bureau).
On Saturday, April 11, 2015, at the monthly “St. Crispins” hobby day in Anaheim, Andy Mouradian and I re-fought the October 1806 battle of Halle – Bernadotte’s French I Corps versus the Duke of Wurttemberg’s Prussian “Reserve” corps. The game was played with 15 mm figures, using the “La Bataille” (LB) rule system by S. Phenow. As you might know, historically the French cleaved straight through the Prussian “advance guard” forces covering the river crossings and disrupted the Prussian attempt to disengage and withdraw (that’s too polite – Wurttemberg’s command got scattered to hell and back). So how would Bernadotte (Andy) fare today?
This shows details of the battlefield before troop placement. No real significant woods to speak of. The broad stream is the Saale river, which is the key terrain feature: not terribly wide, but with steep (even sheer) banks which basically barred crossing by artillery and cavalry, and causing infantry a 3-turn delay in crossing (with an additional “disordered” turn on the far side, as troops sorted themselves, checked for wet cartridges, dumped mud out of shoes, etc.). The smaller side streams were deemed fordable per normal LB movement rules. Historically, the three bridges were covered types, but we had none available, so . . . Halle lies beyond the streams, with its large market square visible.
This shows most of the initial deployment as the French appear on scene. The bulk of Wurttemberg’s force is on high ground SSE of the town. His “Advanced Guard” under Gen.-Maj. von Hinrich is screening the approaches to the bridges. Historically, Wurttemberg was late in realizing that his line of retreat – toward Dessau and the Elbe River – was directly in the line of French advance was a threat. The French practically had possession of Halle before he made significant efforts toward withdrawal. I – as Wurttemberg – self-imposed a rule that the Prussian main body would not begin to move off the high ground until French had crossed the main Saale branch. Further (although I didn’t tell Andy this initially), I self-imposed an additional “Prussian doctrine” rule of avoiding the use of line troops to fight in towns/cities, where deployment and effective musketry was difficult; leaving this to the “light troops” – fusiliers, hussars, etc.). Basically Wurttemberg’s idea, once the threat was realized, was to get away. That’s basically how I played it – and it proved to be a tricky business.
The battle started well for the Prussians. A French chasseur a cheval regiment (4 bases) charged two squadrons (bases) of Prussian dragoons – and were held! Then two squadrons of Prussian hussars, under GM von Hinrich’s inspiration, charged into the embroiled French chasseurs and sent them packing.
Artillery fire and the advance of way too many Frenchmen then induced a most unceremonious departure by that same Prussian cavalry. Now the French had to solve the Saale River crossing.
A Prussian fusilier battalion and two-gun horse artillery section stood waiting for the crossing attempt.
Unfortunately, I did not capture the exact moment in picture, but casualties (50%) to French artillery fire and a failed morale check caused the first of von Hinrich’s fusilier battalions to bolt from the Saale bridge. French hussars then rushed the bridge and destroyed the horse gun section before it had a chance to withdraw.
GM von Hinrich had recovered his cavalry squadrons and posted them to charge any French crossing of the second bridge. (He thought about advancing his remaining two fusilier battalions, but thought they might be better held back to contest possession of Halle itself.) As the French rushed forward to smash their way into Halle, there evolved a most epic traffic jam at the Saale bridge.
There was considerable contesting of right-of-way (i.e. command cards coming up in counter-productive order), which had Bernadotte (Andy) momentarily tearing his hair in frustration (apparently the option to try fording the Saale did not appear enticing enough at this juncture).
The first attempt by the French to cross the second bridge was thrown back by a gallant charge by Hinrich’s hussars (the dragoons hesitated when ordered to go in). However French artillery fire then proceeded to murder the dragoons and a charge by French hussars over the second bridge cause the formerly valiant Prussian hussar squadrons to bolt for town.
Von Hinrich arrayed his remaining forces to contest entry into Halle. Meanwhile, the Duke of Wurttemberg, realizing at last that the French were getting rather close to cutting his line of retreat to the Elbe River, had gotten his troops in motion. . .albeit at right angles to the French line of attack. Much would now depend on GM von Hinrich’s ability to prevent a rapid French push through Halle.
(Side note: Forgot to mention in Part 1 that the Prussian troops were rated “average” across the board, while the French got to roll on the LB morale distribution table for each unit’s morale (counting “Green” results as “Average”), except for the French horse batteries, which were pre-rated “Crack.” As a result, Andy managed to roll a few units with better than “average” ratings. In addition, while Prussian generals, except von Hinrich, were no better than “Average,” several French generals were above that grade. Thus, on top of a slight numerical advantage (historical), the French also had something of an overall “quality” bulge.)
Once the second bridge was cleared, the French seemed to discover the wonders of fording the smaller streams. Their cavalry moved en masse to try to interdict the Prussian line of retreat.
This forced the leading Prussian division, GM von Jung-Larisch’s, to come off the road and form squares to both protect itself and the line of retreat for their following Kameraden. Meanwhile, a crushing French volley momentarily broke up von Hinrich’s fusiliers barring the door to Halle.
THE CRISIS WAS AT HAND!! GM von Hinrich – if he wasn’t already the Prussian hero of the day – then sealed that title by rallying his last full battalion of fusiliers at the far end of the market square.
“Hold or die!” he ordered. A French regiment, unable to fully deploy in the square, advanced to try affairs with these fusiliers and to claim – if possible – the honor of breaking through von Wurttemberg’s line of withdrawal. For several critical turns, these formations traded close volleys. The French charged – and were brought to a standstill. Meanwhile, the Prussian withdrawal behind Halle continued apace. But the French were now pushing infantry masses over the last stream, and Jung-Larisch’s squares were starting to receive canister fire.
A valiant charge by French hussars against one the squares was repelled.
At the end, when we had to call a halt to playing (16 turns in), the situation was basically as the last photo shown. Clearly, if von Wurttemberg was going to save his corps, he was going to have to do so with a fighting withdrawal. It appeared to me that would be likely – had we been able to keep playing – to move a large majority of his corps away safely. But there would have been some bloody work holding back the French .
Great game all around, Andy aka Bernadotte has a victory to report to his Emperor.
Scenario material: Scenario notes for French and Prussians at Halle (.doc): Halle French scenario notes, Halle Prussian scenario notes. Click on the scenario map below to enable enlargement and better viewing.
Thank you correspondent Dan and Andy. Someday when WR has some of his 28mm bare lead 1806 era Prussians painted a scenario worthy of play. Cheers from the warren.