The Battle of Wartenburg WR first played back in the 1990’s, based from an article in the premier issue of First Empire (June/July 1991). The First Empire article was written by Leon Parte’ and, unlike many typical magazine battle articles, had a detailed OOB for the times. The included hand drawn map was simple and convoyed the major aspects of the battlefield, easily transferred to the tabletop. Dim memory has the Prussians winning the original scenario game but sorry no photographic proof has been found.
Coming forward in time, WR found his old Wartenburg scenario notes during his recent warren move, and with the copy of Napoleon at Leipzig in hand, rewrote the entire scenario to his current standards. New map, scenario notes, rosters and some background material. All this written and internet information is linked later in this blog posting.
The battle of Wartenburg was a small battle compared to the grand battles of the 1813 campaign. The Army of Silesia marched to the Elbe River near Wartenburg, spanned the river with Russian and Prussian pontoonier detachments, then spent (wasted) several days organizing their initial crossing forces while the French basically did nothing to oppose their crossing. Ney woke up to the messages of his staff commanders and sent the full IV Corps under General Bertrand to defend the river crossing. The last division (15th Italian) arrived the day before the Prussians performed their serious river crossing march on October 3rd.
General Bertrand was unaware he was facing the entire Army of Silesia, he thought only the 1st Korps of Prussia under General Yorck was local to his position at Wartenburg. Had he known the true state of events, his messages to Marshal Ney would have been urgent for reinforcements. Still, the entire might of the Army of Silesia wasn’t used by Blucher and Yorck, only the four Prussian brigades saw any serious action on the 3rd of October.
During the evening of October 2nd to 3rd, the Prussian advance guard (mostly the 1st and 2nd Brigades), crossed the river pontoon brigades and, early in the misty morning light, bumped into the alert French defense at the dike. After several sharp close engagements, the 1st and 2nd Brigades fell back… some accounts say routed back, requiring the personal intervention of Generals Blucher and Yorck to stem the discouraged Prussian infantry. Having rallied their troops, the Prussian command staff changed their plan of attack to the scenario starting positions. 1st Brigade (Steinmetz) stood before the French 12th Division (Morand) positions at the dike, detaching several battalions and cavalry to join 2nd Brigade (Pz. Carl Mecklenburg-Strelitz) along the Elster to Bleddin river road. 2nd Brigade would then attack along the river bank roadway (path really), defeat the 38th Wurttemberg Division (Franquemont) and march around the French defenses at Wartenburg. The 7th and 8th Brigades will follow and support the 2nd Brigade’s advance. Simple plan… but all planning disappears when the cannon roar.
About 1000 hours the reorganized Prussians marched into the dim morning light. 1st Brigade advanced again towards the French held dike positions, but kept a distance for the moment. 2nd Brigade stormed forward into the 38th Division forward dike position near Schuberg, seized the position after a bloody struggle, and advanced towards Bleddin. The 38th Wurttemberg Division, terribly weakened from the recent battle at Dennewitz, just couldn’t stop the Prussian 2nd Brigade advance. After more struggle and losses, the Wurttemberg Division was forced to release Bleddin and retired from the near battlefield. 2nd Brigade occupied Bleddin, and after stationing several battalions to guard against imaginary French reinforcements from Torgau garrison, marched the rest towards Wartenburg.
Meanwhile, 1st Brigade, along with 7th Brigade (Horn) stormed into the dike position. With waterlogged fields, limited artillery support, and alert French defense, the attacks failed to dislodge the French defenders. The 15th Italian Division (Fontanelli) joined 12th Division (Morand) manning the length of Wartenburg dike and town defenses. In time, the Prussian 7th Brigade entered the woods near Wartenburg, formed up their ranks and surged in the 15th Italian Division position south of Wartenburg. Bitter close range musketry and cold steel charges surged up the dike face. Each attack was repulsed to Prussian mounting frustration and casualties. Finally, General Horn, with horse shot out from under him, grabbed a musket and led the 2nd battalion Leib regiment in a bold charge across the wet ground and up the dike face. This last charge broke the weary Italian defenders, chased by the valiant Leib regiment into Wardenburg and beyond.
Joined by the 8th Brigade (Hunerbein) in rear support, the much reduced 2nd Brigade marched from Bleddin towards Wartenburg. By now the French were retiring from orders issued by General Bertrand. The weak Hessian cavalry 24th Brigade (Beaumont) attempted to stem the Prussian advance from Bleddin, charging the advancing 2nd & 8th Brigades. The Prussian 2nd Leib hussars, along with Mecklenburg-Strelitz hussars chased the Hessian cavalry from the field. These same Mecklenburg-Strelitz hussars later will have their fame from seizing an “Imperial” standard at Leipzig.
Evening light coming on, the French columns retired, chased by the crazed Leib regiment and the Prussian cavalry arriving from Bleddin. Several French cannon and prisoners were collected or taken as the battle sounds died off for the day. Late afternoon marching brought Prussian 1st Korps Advance Guard detachments (cavalry and infantry), along with 1st Korps Reserve cavalry command across the Elbe River that evening. The next day marched the Russian Army Corps components of the Army of Silesia: 8th (St. Priest), 9th (Olsoviev), 10th (Kapzevich), 11th (Osten-Sacken), and Cavalry Corps (Korff). Clearly General Bertrand wasn’t going to stop this mass of men and equipment if somehow he held the Wartenburg position.
Admitted French losses in IV Corps were 500 killed and 150 prisoners… seems a bit low for the struggles along the dike and the 38th Wurttemberg division was reduced to weak four battalions. Prussian losses amounted to 2,100 casualties, especially in 1st and 2nd Brigades, However the Prussian sources claim 11 cannon and 1,000 prisoners. General Horn was wounded from one of the last French artillery cannister discharges.
The Battle of Wartenburg October 3, 1813 was historically an Army of Silesia victory and established a firm river crossing for the various Prussian and Russian corps of the Army of Silesia. With the victory the general strategic level changed, compelling Marshal Ney to withdraw his forces and allowed Blucher, along with Bernadotte and the Army of the North, to cross the Elbe river. From this began the near encirclement of the Grande Armee, culminating in the Battle of Nations at Leipzig thirteen days later.
The Scenario: WR’s scenario map for his 8×6′ tabletop. Each drawn small square is one foot or 12 tabletop inches common for all WR scenario maps. Scenario notes cover the various terrain features and their effect on the miniature scenario movements and firepower, typical for most miniature rules. The off map Prussian artillery (firing across the Elbe River) is represented by a system of zonal movement to two different cross river artillery positions, covered again in the scenario notes .doc file.
Starting positions for the various commands (divisions, brigades and HQ’s) for both sides shown by the command counter placement. Scenario starts at 1000 hours, after the failure of the first weak morning Prussian assault on the dike position, so the initial scenario positions changed from the previous evening encampments.
WR’s scenario notes for Wartenburg (.doc file): Wartenburg Scenario Notes
Written references for WR’s Wartenburg scenario were limited in number. Apart from G. Nafziger’s Napoleon at Leipzig book, pages 50 to 70, the other hard print source WR had been an article in issue #1 First Empire by Leon Parte. The First Empire article was the basis of the WR’s first Wartenburg scenario game attempt back in the 1990’s. WR still has the First Empire copy in his magazine collection so information can be readily gleaned for interest parties.
Storming the Wartenburg dike position by the 8th IR Leib-Infanterie-regiment article: Link
Youtube research found the recent reenactment of the battle. The video has modern period uniformed reenactors for the Prussians and the French allies. The viewer should look closely at the defensive dike position while viewing the video as it appears in several moments. Wartenburg Youtube
Another YouTube posted video showing the march parade of the reenactors at the 200 year anniversary of Wartenburg. Watch the first half of video for the reenactors, the second half is parade of the local citizens: Wartenburg March Parade
Since WR’s scenario was play tested last weekend, the After Action Report (AAR) will soon follow including embedded YouTube links covering the game turn by turn movements.
Cheers from the new warren.