Back on November 18th, or two weekends ago, WR ran his Battle of Halle 1896 scenario on the warren gaming tables. The outcome and AAR below covers the close action of the Prussians trying to fight their way northward and the two-step French process of seizing the Hohe Brücke covered bridges then their attempted breakout to block the Prussian Reserve Command from exiting the tabletop on the Dessau road.
After introductions and a brief pre-game discussion on the Halle scenario, both player teams (six players) set about the scenario opening turns. The background WR report for this interesting 1806 campaign battle can be read here: Battle of Halle 1806
Opening situation has the French I Corps under Marshal Bernadotte arriving and preparing to attack the Prussian outpost deployed before the Hohe Brücke covered bridges leading into old town Halle proper. Leading the French Corps is the 1st Division under GD Dupont and alongside is the Corp’s light cavalry brigade under GB Tilly. Following in road march are the two other French infantry divisions: the 2nd Division under GD Rivaud and the 3rd Division under GD Drouet. The forward Prussian Advance guard is commanded by GM von Hinrich while the bulk of the Prussian Reserve command is stationed south of Halle on the eastern side of Saale river. The Prussian Reserve Command consists of two Infantry divisions and a cavalry brigade. The 1st Reserve Division under GM von Natzmer, the 2nd Reserve Division under GM von Jung-Larisch, and the Reserve cavalry brigade under Oberst von Hertzberg.
With the forces positioned to start the scenario, the curtain veil parts with the two sides within artillery bombardment and charge range….
The Halle 1806 scenario notes file (.doc): Halle 1806 Scenario Notes
Scenario start 1000 hours: French have first movement (side 1) on the tabletop. Before the French Movement phase however, the Prussians have their Cavalry Charge Declaration phase (sequence of play chart at end of this article). So the two small Prussian detachments (dragoons and hussars) sound their trumpets. French morale tests passed, the French unit movement is slowed due to the Prussian charge zone (halved).
French finish their unit movements. The Prussian small hussar detachment charge home on the 2nd French Hussars during the Shock phase. French counter-charge but lose the sword play brawl for the moment and retire. Continuing their charge, the Prussian hussars impact the maneuvering 5th French Chasseurs in the flank, sending them packing to the rear. Prussians win the first fights.
Near the Hohe Brücke the French infantry approaches as the French artillery bombards the Borell Fusilier battalion guarding the causeway, causing some loss.
1020 hours: Rallied from their charges, the Prussian cavalry detachments turn about and retire half speed to place distance from the French battalions. Passing before the last French hussar regiment (4th), the Prussians were charged by the eager French cavalry ranks. This time the Prussian hussar detachment was overwhelmed by the larger French 4th Hussars and forced to retire towards the causeway and Hohe Brücke while their fellow dragoons look on.
French infantry press the forward positioned Prussian Knorr Fusilier battalion losing whole files to the French artillery bombardment. Skirmisher fire nips at the exposed Prussian ranks. GM von Hinrich tries to rally his small force but is carried to the rear by the Prussian hussar rush across the wooden bridge planks. Several groups of fusiliers retire, followed by more leaving the front line, till the entire battalion has bolted for the rear.
1040 hours: French storm across the first Hohe Brücke covered bridge. Led by the 32nd Ligne, the historical unit which actually led the assault, the French head for the second Prussian mid-river island defense. GM von Hinrich, having pulled himself from the fleeing hussars, orders the Prussian half battery to shell the French column while preparing the next Prussian fusilier battalion (Knorr) to volley fire.
WR Note: Looking at the scenario photos makes WR realize he forgot a small building on the central island…. WR guesses the Prussians dismantled the structure to fit their Prussian half artillery battery in the same space.
1100 hours: French artillery bombards the Prussian half foot battery. One cannon is broken by round shot as several crewmen lie wounded around the shattered cannon. French bayonets charge forward into the Prussian double rank fusiliers, stepping over several miniatures hit by the Prussian artillery and musketry.
The Prussian half battery suffers a cannon loss and the counter-battery rules come into play. The next Prussian cannon volley must be directed at the distant French artillery as the Prussian gunners attention is drawn towards the French batteries. Still, the close range musketry volleys from the Knorr Fusiliers send the first French 32nd battalion in retreat.
1120 hours: Another French 32nd battalion charges across the covered bridge. This time the Prussian gunners have their attention on the French artillery for the moment (counter-battery). Passing through the Prussian firepower zone, the French bayonets crash into the Knorr Fusilier battalion firing deadly close range musketry volleys. Even with enthusiasm from their receiving morale test, this time the French are victorious and send the Knorr Fusiliers in retreat across the next bridge closely followed by the Prussian gunners abandoning their cannon after another cannon destroyed by French artillery bombardment.
Seeing the French infantry battalions crowd marching towards the Hohe Brücke covered bridges, the light cavalry brigade of GB Tilly approach the Saale river to swim across.
1140 hours: Deploying a 32nd Ligne battalion to support the next assault, the leading 9th Legere battalion approaches the last covered bridge before entering old town Halle.
While the 4th French Hussar toy with the last Prussian dragoon detachment squadron miniature refusing to swim the Saale river, two French cavalry regiment start swimming across (2nd Hussars and 5th Chasseurs) the Saale.
1200 hours: The 9th Legere battalion charge across the last covered bridge defended by the von Hinrich Fusilier battalion. With GM von Hinrich’s advance guard command now at 40% loss, the Prussian morale is shaky at best. The veteran French 9th Legere soon will quickly clear the last Prussian position before Halle. Rallied from their previous flight, the Knorr Fusilier battalion occupies some buildings overlooking the last Saale river branch and the bridges entering Halle.
While the French legere prepare to enter the old town of Halle, the French light cavalry brigade under GB Tilly is crossing the Saale river via swimming their horses. One more Saale river branch to go…. but is the French player team thinking about what happens when the French cavalry rides up the river bank on the Prussian side of the river?
1220 hours: Rushing past the feeble Prussian defensive musketry, a column of 9th Legere infantry almost reach the Marktplatz while a follow-up column engages the Knorr Fusilier battalion defending the side road bridge. The first French command has entered Halle thus triggering release of one Prussian Reserve command for northward movement.
Prussian movement seen as the Prussian Reserve Cavalry command is released to ride north and counter the French light cavalry crossing the Saale river above Halle. The other Prussian Reserve infantry commands; 1st Division (GM Natzmer) and 2nd Division (GM Jung-Larisch), change formation into battle mode and change their orders to Engage. Still they are restricted to movements south of the Leipziger Turm until a second French command crosses the Saale river line.
1240 hours: Forcing back the last Prussian forward defensive line in Halle, the French infantry march into the center of old town Halle. Fusilier battalion Knorr rallies to defend the Galgenthor gate near the Leipziger Turm. Outside eastern Halle, the Prussian Reserve cavalry command, dragoons and hussars, ride hard northward to seal the Steinthor gateway and then engage the French light cavalry crossing the last Saale river branch. This crossing will trigger the total release of all Prussian Reserve commands for scenario, since the French light cavalry command is the second French command counted as crossing the Saale river line or enter Halle.
1300 hours: Arriving to control the inward Steinthor gate, the French legere infantry soon see the same small Prussian hussar detachment stationed outside the gate. Presenting a firm wall of sharp bayonets in the gateway, the Prussian hussars are quickly discouraged from charging home while a Prussian 6lb horse battery unlimbered nearby.
As the French 1st Division (GD Dupont) enters old town Halle, the French light cavalry under GB Tilly cross the last Saale river branch and ride towards the northern open ground above Halle, aiming to cut the northern road exits to Magdeburg and Dessau. Prussian Reserve 1st and 2nd Division commands start to march northward, led by their cavalry. Military trains crowd the route as musketeer regiments form line and march in unison past the Leipziger Turm medieval tower.
1320 hours: Opening clashes between the French and Prussian cavalry mark the turn. French 2nd Hussars push deep forward to cut the road leading off table to Dessau. The Heyking Dragoons counter the French movement, trotting into French counter-charge range (4″). The French hussars charge, the Prussian Heyking Dragoons counter with their own controlled charge. Impact and sword play across the open ground, the French hussars, with elan, defeat the heavier Prussian dragoons. Round one to the hussars.
While the 1st Prussian Reserve Division marches northward, the 2nd Division under GM von Jung-Larisch marches past the Leipziger Turm medieval tower, while guarding the slow baggage train wagons. These wagons must remain on the roadway unlike the military trains which can cross-country move. Prussian victory requires at least four train units exit the northern table road exits for any Prussian victory.
During the French Movement phase, the French 1st Division enters old town Halle and starts to march towards the exit gates. Following up is the French 2nd Division just starting to cross the Hohe Brücke.
1340 hours: The small Prussian hussar detachment was successful holding the French from exiting the Steinthor gate. Being a bit uppy, the hussars charged the French 9th Legere blocking the gate, causing that battalion to retire into the Marktplatz. No doubt in reality the Prussian 6lb horse battery was the true cause of the French retirement. Seeing the open gate, the fooled hussars, with great elan but little tactical thought, rush through the narrow opening to be confronted by a formed 32nd Ligne battalion square in the Marktplatz. Seeing the dense French formation, they pull up looking about inside Halle Steinthor gateway. Time to exit….stage right!
Outside Halle the two cavalry commands ride forward. The French 5th Chasseurs a’ cheval charge to draw in the arriving Prussian Heyking and Hertzberg Dragoon regiments, joined by the Usedom Hussars.
While the cavalry settle scores on the northern open ground, the arriving 1st Division under GM von Natzmer is deployed to back up the Prussian horse and secure the Steinthor gate. They escort the three military train wagons, which have cross-country ability unlike the baggage trains with 2nd Division which are road bound. The battered Prussian fusiliers guard the tree-lined walls of old Halle, preventing French infantry eruptions from local gates and crumbling old walls.
1400 hours: French continue to push infantry battalions into Halle. Several battalions exit via the northern gate and occupy the buildings outside the city walls. The head of 2nd Division (Rivaud) reaches the edge of Marktplatz in their long strung out battalion road columns. On the northwest front outside Halle, the stationary 3rd Division (Drouet) spots the arrival of the Treskow column and marches towards Nietleben village. This late arriving Prussian column, under GM von Treskow, consists of the IR #17 Treskow and a small hussar detachment. Facing them is the entire 3rd Division (27th Legere, 94th and 95th Ligne regiments plus some field artillery batteries) under GD Drouet. Still, they have kept the entire 3rd Division from sending units to engage the main Prussian Reserve command.
Pushing forward, the Prussian Hertzberg Dragoons seek to engage the French light cavalry brigade. Barely recovered from the previous engagement, the French 5th Chasseurs a’ cheval loses again to the Prussian dragoons, but not without a stiff fight and session of sword play.
Seeing the Prussian discomfort, the rallied French 4th Hussar charge the open flank of the Hertzberg Dragoons. The Prussian break in rout before the French sabers reach their position. Prussian response… bring up the Heyking Dragoons to counter the charging 4th Hussars. French elan is up, the swift 4th Hussars overwhelm the Prussian dragoons.
1420 hours: French sortie from the Steinthor gate. A battalion of the 32nd Ligne charges the Prussian 6lb horse battery. French 9th Legere battalion approached from their march out the northern gate to secure the crossroads. Prussian musketeer battalion form their famous linear formations to contest the French advance at the crossroads.
By now the French 1st Division (Dupont) has full control of Halle and starts to exit battalions through the northern gate to assault the head of the Prussian 1st Division (von Natzmer) linear battle line. Following in strategic road march formation, the entire French 2nd Division (Rivaud) turns left at the Marktplatz and marches out the northern gate.
Up in the northwest battlefield, the outnumbered Treskow column (IR #17 Treskow) has formed their line and await the French approach. Two battalions against six with artillery support. Not exactly a fair fight.
A daring French assault is repulsed. A small detachment of converged elite companies charge through a passage on the old town Halle wall. They momentarily surprise the Prussian von Hinrichs Fusilier battalion. Recovering their wits, the Prussian fusilier battalion close ranks and repulse the French attack and save the nearby baggage trains from French mischief.
Note: The old walls of Halle have many small passages throughout the city perimeter from expansion beyond the original city wall. In scenario terms, any infantry unit can start adjacent to the walls and attack “through the wall via a passage” to the exterior ground. The same reverse action can be performed to enter the town but the Prussian musketeer and grenadier battalions are not as “handy” compare to the French veteran infantry.
On the northern front, the French infantry are expanding their presence to contest the vital crossroad position. Cut the roadway or at least threaten same and the Prussian baggage train cannot pass. So far the Prussians can exit the three military trains but need one more baggage train (for four in total) to meet victory conditions. To counter the French infantry, the Prussian 1st Division (Natzmer) cross the roadway and start engagement with long-range musketry while dragging forward their positional rated field artillery.
Note: During the 1806 campaign the majority of Prussian train and even their artillery battery drivers were civilians hired on. One major reason why so many Prussian cannon were taken during the campaign… the civilian drivers bolted from their cannon with the train horses, leaving the cannon inmobile. Hence the “positional artillery” rating for the non horse artillery.
1440 hours: Catching a French ligne battalion (32nd) in column, the Usedom Hussar regiment declares a charge. In the subsequent morale test the French battalion routed, jumping over a low hedge to avoid the charging hoofs and pointed sabers. To stem the Prussian hussars, the weakened French 2nd Hussar turned about while the 4th Hussars had to face another Prussian charge (Hertzberg Dragoons) coming from the other side.
Going through the Shock phase sequence… Prussian option, then a French option, then back to a Prussian option for Shock combat and charge movement. The back and forth choices, when to pass the option, exposed flanks or disrupted units…. the Shock Phase is all timing and motion. Prussian choose the Usedom Hussar shock option (unit) first. They chase the routing 32nd Ligne battalion then impact the 2nd Hussars. Sword play leads to a Prussian victory. Shock phase then goes to the French option. They counter-charge the charging Hertzberg Dragoons and win their melee. Next a Prussian option… the Usedom Hussars charge into the rear of the 4th Hussars, scattering them with their fellow 2nd Hussars in rout. Leadership at the front…. GB Tilly and Oberst von Hertzberg both fall in hand to hand sword combats.
Back near the Steinthor gate, the French and Prussian battalions are slugging it out. Having forced the Prussian 6lb horse battery away from the gate in past movement, the French battalions formed linear formation and advanced to control the crossroads behind two Prussian musketeer battalions. Joined by a French column, the close range volleys tore into the ranks of both sides. Four miniatures drop….. a Prussian battalion falls into morale disorder.
To the northwest, the lonely and outnumbered Treskow column detachment is soon faced by the larger French force. French musketry proves to be deadly while French columns approach to finish the job.
First one Prussian battalion runs from the combined French firepower and the impact of the French battalion column. The other IR #17 battalion holds their ground and sees off the French column assault with French dead littering the ground before them.
1500 hours: French and Prussians continue the deadly interlock of musketry volleys outside the Steinthor gate. Slowly the French gain the upper hand, a Prussian musketeer battalion dissolves in flight. Behind them the Schmeling Grenadier battalion tried to stem the French column advance while attached battalion cannon rips gaps in the French ranks from an adjacent musketeer battalion. More French form linear formation and extend the battle line north of the Steinthor gate. Quickly the Prussian 1st Division (Natzmer) and French 1st Division (Dupont) visibility show the signs of battle and miniature loss (20% loss markers), Inside Halle, the daring von Hinrich Fusiliers had hopped the old city wall and occupied a building into the town overlooking the Marktplatz. Quickly the French reacted and formed a column in the Marktplatz. Launched against the fusiliers firing from open windows and doorways, the open Marktplatz soon has French bodies lying on the cobblestone. French grimly set task to hand to evict the Prussian fusiliers from the Halle building. After a sharp fight, through doorways and windows, the Prussian elan was overcome and the fusiliers forced to retire from Halle.
Confusion and musketry smoke clouds the Steinthor area battlefield. Another French column, formed from 8th Legere (arriving 2nd Division), marches forward into the Prussian musketeer volleys while a sister regimental battalion forms line to add their firepower towards French success.
Treskow column is breaking….. really broken and put to flight. French infantry battalions march forward to complete the French minor victory northwest of Halle.
1520 hours: Been a turn or two since the cavalry on each side have engaged their enemy. Both sides had to rally their broken units, reduced in size from their starting strength. Prussians strike first. They line up and charge the French gathering before them. Usedom Hussars and Heyking Dragoons vs. French 5th Chasseurs a’ cheval and 4th Hussars. The French 5th Chasseurs defeat the Usedom Hussars, the Heyking Dragoons failed to charge home, and the 4th Hussars just stand still, their horses too winded to walk forward.
The French advance comes against the growing number of Prussian positional artillery unlimbered. Clearly the final push to control the crossroads is going to cost the French 1st Division (Dupont) dearly as their losses climb past 40% losses. The battle is slowly shifting from the French viewpoint to the arriving 2nd Division (Rivaud) to carry the battle forward.
Pounding the French legere battalion exposed to the concentrated Prussian cannon, the French battalion bolts to the rear while watching a Prussian battalion rout in the opposite direction from French assault.
1540 hours: Hard pounding continues. Miniatures are being lost on both sides. The forward Prussian 6lb foot battery is threatened by a flanking French ligne battalion assault. A rump of the French 2nd Hussar regiment rides behind the Heyking Dragoons to charge a Prussian musketeer battalion and the open exposed Prussian divisional line.
Seeing the French 2nd Hussars charge, the Prussian response brought forward the Usedom Hussars detachment (remember them…. from their opening scenario charge?) and the musketeer battalion forming square. Little to say…. the 2nd Hussar charge ended on the wall of Prussian bayonets with both squadrons destroyed.
As the French 2nd Division marched north after turning left at the Marktplatz, Marshal Bernadotte and his HQ command and ADC’s rode or marched into Halle. Arriving in central Halle and watching several French foot artillery batteries ride past, his right arm was suddenly hit from a random shot. Seriously wounded, Bernadotte was quickly carried into a nearby house as the doctors are summoned and ADC’s look on with concern.
Note: Every firepower shot has a small chance for a random hit on leadership or special characters. For each natural 01 or 00 rolled (firepower is done by % dice), by firing artillery battery, skirmishers, or formed rank battalion, the random hit table is consulted. Roll a d6, 1-3 means a character (mostly leadership) horse is hit if within 12″ of the firing unit. 4-5 means the character himself is hit if within 12″. A 6 rolled means a character is hit if within 24″ or two feet of the firing unit. So in Bernadotte’s case, the simple case of bullets and round shot flying about somehow found Bernadotte in Halle. Maybe there was a wounded Prussian fusilier lying near the building stormed earlier who took the shot. History will never know. The immediate effect is 15 MFP points applied to the French total and this action draws the running French MFP total near the point where the French army goes over their army MFP threshold.
1600 hours: The French army morale threshold is exceeded. The sudden and unexpected wounding of Marshal Bernadotte adds 15 MFP points to the French total running score, the same as if 15 miniatures had been lost from rout or combat firepower. Henceforth the French army or I Corps will be going -1 CMR level every game hour the scenario continues. Importantly all the French ATTACK orders issued to the French cavalry and 1st and 2nd infantry divisions are cancelled and changed to ENGAGE orders, more restrictive towards offensive close range actions or charges on the tabletop. In effect, the French army ability to attack has been stopped as violating the ENGAGE order restrictions will cost each battalion or cavalry unit a miniature removal vs. the normal two MFP point cost applied if the French were still under their MFP army threshold.
Still, the French maneuvered to block the Prussian baggage trains from exiting the tabletop. Keep the roadway blocked or covered by French artillery and the Prussian victory is minor at best, more likely a draw result. The Prussian army itself is nearing their army morale MFP threshold too. With the majority of the French army one CMR level higher than their equal unit on the Prussian side, going down one level at the 1600 hours turn hasn’t really affected the French army with the exception of the 1st Division nearing 50% loss. So the French drag up two batteries to unlimber covering the crossroads, opposite the Prussian cannon. French infantry march to engage the Prussians with long-range linear warfare musketry, thus avoiding the miniature loss penalty for violation of ENGAGE order restriction by closing to normal or point-blank range musketry (entering a minimum musketry fire zone or 2″).
Looking over the situation, the Prussians have two turns to clear the roadway of French artillery and infantry before their own army exceeds their army morale threshold on the 1700 hours turn, based upon current Prussian command order issuance. The scenario end rapidity becomes clear. Noting the French movement to only maintain long-range engagement, the Prussians shift several battalions to threaten the French artillery near the crossroads. Those cannon must be forced to retire to clear any passage for the baggage trains. The nearly fresh Prussian 2nd Division (Jung-Larisch) attacks the weakened French 1st Division currently with nearly 50% command loss level near the Steinthor gate. Every morale test the French battalions or artillery starts with a negative three (-3) CMR adjustment; two points for the 40%-59% command loss level, and one more for exceeding the army morale first hour (at 1600 hours turn). Faced with the Prussian 2nd Division pressure, and possible morale tests, the French 1st Division battalions retire back into Halle and clear the roadway to the crossroads. The two recently unlimbered French artillery batteries are next, being pressured to retire by the Prussian 1st Division and the 2nd Division together. Granted the 1st Prussian Reserve Division (Natzmer) is just holding the French 2nd Division from the roadway at 20% loss level. Seeing the Prussian planned advance and their own 1st Division (Dupont) retirement into Halle, the French artillery batteries retire with their 2nd Division (Rivaud) outside of effective range on the crossroads. At this point the scenario was called. The French at 1700 hours now suffer -2 CMR for every required morale test and the Prussians just exceed their army morale so they start the negative CMR adjustment cycle. Their battered 1st Division (Dupont) can hold Halle and the Steinthor gate but cannot influence the passage of the Prussian baggage train nor the Prussian 2nd Reserve division outside the city walls. The 2nd Division (Rivaud) is fresh, with light loss so far, but when faced by the approaching Prussian 2nd Reserve Division (Jung-Larisch) and directly faced off by the holding position Prussian 1st Reserve Division (Natzmer), they cannot delay the Prussian trains from exiting the tabletop via the Dessau road. Plus there is still Prussian cavalry threatening their open flank and only held at bay by the weak French light cavalry brigade of wounded GB Tilly. In reality, both cavalry commands are shells of themselves and if they tried to charge could easily rout away from the morale test roll.
So…. a very minor Prussian victory at best with their ability to drag the train miniatures off at the Dessau road exit. Since the Prussian command % loss markers added up to 140%, the result officially should be called a draw result. Final Prussian command loss markers at called scenario end ended at : Advance guard 60%, Cavalry 60%, 1st Division 20% = 140% total. For the French their 1st Division has the 40% loss marker on the tabletop but nearly at 60%, their light cavalry ended the scenario at 40% loss. French 2nd and 3rd Divisions under 10% or token loss. From the scenario notes file (.doc) the Prussian victory condition reads as:
Prussian Minor Victory: Have all Prussian commands exit the road to Dessau or Magdeburg by nightfall. Limit Prussian command losses to total of 120% or less, adding together the individual command loss marker totals. Note the maximum single marker value is 60% as there is no 80% or higher marker. Detachment Treskow is omitted from the calculation. Exit tabletop with majority of military train units.
Scenario quick review: Went historically with the French infantry clearing the Hohe Brücke covered bridges quickly then the French occupied Halle with the 1st Division (Dupont). While taking the bridges, the French light cavalry brigade under GB Tilly swam the Saale river branches. Their arrival on the Saale river eastern bank triggered too early the entire Prussian Reserve Command northern movement release. Up to this point only one Prussian command had the ability to start marching northward till a second French command entered Halle or crossed the Saale river. WR would have held back the French cavalry mid river till the 2nd Division (Rivaud) was ready to enter and quickly transit Halle and exit the gate of choice. The French 2nd Division marched into Halle (in long road column), then turned to exit via the northern gate following other 1st Division battalions, but after the light cavalry had already crossed the Saale river. While this was happening, the Prussian Reserve cavalry command (under Oberst von Hertzberg) clashed with the French light cavalry under GB Tilly north of Halle. The sole French 1st Division didn’t have the strength to stop the early northern Prussian movement of both Prussian Reserve infantry commands. They tried to control the crossroads and especially the Steinthor gate exit. Losses mounted till they had to retire back into Halle behind the city walls thus ending the scenario battle as the arriving French 2nd Division north of Halle couldn’t contain the combined Prussian infantry mass.
As always… a special thank you for all the players who attended the game day.
Cheers from the Warren.
Sequence of play chart: