Last Saturday we had another go at Le Feu Sacré at our wargames club Murphy's Heroes. Dick, Michel, Tom and myself took part - Dick and Michel acting as French commanders, Tom and myself as Prussian commanders - with Michel and me acting as respective CiC's.
The scenario was a fight in 1815, somewhere near Ligny, with 2 French divisions supported by cavalry bearing down on 2 understrength Prussian brigades, also supported by some cavalry. In the below picture the Prussian baseline is to the left, the French to the right.
The Prussians set up, deploying one brigade covering the central village and the hill to the right of it, with the other brigade deployed to the left, hooking up to a woody hilltop. The Prussians held their cavalry in reserve, and deployed a dummy blind on the right flank.
The French on the other hand deployed their blinds covering their entire baseline - it would later turn out that the center and just to their right was an infantry division each, with cavalry detachments covering their flanks, and a dummy blind on the far left flank.
Almost immediately, French scouting revealed the Prussians holding the village and adjacent hill. The Prussians brigade under von Donnersmarck had decided to deployed one battalion of Westphalian Landwehr (E class, it doesn't get any worse) in the village, one regiment of West Prussian Infantry on the hill with 2 artillery batteries, and supported by the remaining 2 landwehr battalions. The regiment of Berg infantry was held in reserve, behind the hill.
The French response was quick - 3 batteries of artillery opened fire on the town, which would remain under fire for a good while, steadily causing casualties in the landwehr. In the meantime, the Prussians sat, and waited.
Which was something that they kept doing while the French pushed forward their right flank troops. Symptomatic for the first half of the game, the French troops always managed to do all of their movement before the Prussians got to have any say in the matter - as illustrated by the chips drawn in sequence (left to right). Also, the Prussians proved oblivious to the troops advancing on them, refusing to spot a thing.
Next, von Jagow's division was revealed on the Prussian left flank. Still, there was uncertainity what troops were approaching them. However, it was quite clear that if the blind on the French right contained cavalry, that von Jagow's troops would soon be outflanked and in deep trouble. Therefore, von Ziethen sent his bold cavalry commander, von Röder, to the left flank with a regiment of Brandenburg dragoons, a regiment of Silesian hussars, a battery and 2 regiments of landwehr cavalry. Should the French have a feint on their right flank, then these would be able to turn the French flank and cause havoc. If not, they would be desperately needed to stop the French flanking troops.
By now von Jagow had managed to get a good look at the French division bearing down on him. Outnumbered nearly 2:1, he knew he'd be in for a tough time.
In order to quickly move into a combat effective formation, von Röder deployed his troops off their blind and moved them forward as individual units.
It soon turned out that von Ziethen's guess had been accurate, as 2 regiments of French hussars were spotted on the flank - a force that von Röders troops should be able to deal with quite easily.
In the center, meanwhile, things started to look hairy just left of the village, and therefore von Donnersmarck ordered his Berg regiment to deploy behind and to the left of the village to support von Jagow. With a bit of luck von Jagow would be able to hold till support arrived.
Back to the left flank, where von Röder sent his troops forward, under loud cheering from the Silesian schützen on the hill. Von Röder's artillery was trailing behind a little, about to deploy to open fire on the closest infantry that had been wisely deployed into square.
Von Jagow's troops were starting to feel the pressure, the front line troops taking their first casualties. Over the coming turns, they would repeatedly fail their morale test and go shaken, only to be rallied just in time.
The landwehr troops in the village were starting to grow quite restless. Now at 25% casualties and shaken, it was obvious that they would not be holding for long. Taking a chance, von Donnersmarck pulled them out, and sent the Berg fusiliers in. A chance, since they would not be able to take full advantage of the village's defences until their next turn.
On the left flank, von Jagow's artillery let loose a thundering volley, ripping through the French square, which failed it's morale test and become shaken. Something that most certainly was not missed by the keen eye of our bold cavalry commander, von Röder.
All over the field, bajonets were being fixed, and sabres drawn, as the time for in-your-face-combat was nigh. The first engagement was to happen in the village. Some murderous fire from 3 French batteries inflicted casualties on the freshly arrived fusiliers, which promptly failed their morale test (all through the battle, there were very few, if any, succesful morale tests by the Prussians). Unfortunate, since through the smoke of the artillery came charging 3 French light battalions, smashing in doors and rushing up alleys. Before it was clear what was going on, the Berg fusiliers came routing out the back of the village.
On the left flank, the odds were reversed entirely. The Landwehr cavalry charged into the shaken square, breaking it, and in pursuit breaking the infantry battalion behind it. All-in-all, this caused major havoc, and 3 French battalions to scurry off the field, back home to the mother country. Note: Due to an oversight, the lance-armed landwehr cavalry were counted as lancers. However, due to their inferior training they should not have received that benefit.
On the far left, the Silesian hussars, supported by landwehr cavalry, looked all set to rip through the hussars facing them. However, this proved a deception. With a skillfull roll of the dice, von Röder managed to roll the one thing that had to be avoided: double 1. In a classic reversal of fortune, the Silesian hussars turned tail and fled, sweeping the landwehr cavalry behind with them.
The dragoons meanwhile only fared marginally better. Thrown back through their own battery, they pasued blown and disordered, and the artillery battery wide open to attack.
If things looked bleak now, they would look positively dark for the Prussians moments later. A battalion of von Jagow's Berg infantry, deployed on the right of his line, took some fire, failed yet another morale test, and were charged while still shaken. They, too, turned tail and ran, sweaaping the landwehr behind troops with them. This left von Jagow's line painfully exposed, something soon capitalized on by French battalions advancing and pinning both from the front and the flank.
With the left flank crumbling, the right flank would not be outdone. First of all, the attempt to retake the village with 2 battalions - one musketeer and one landwehr - failed miserably.
Then, a battalion of West-Prussian musketeers, taking fore from both artillery and enfiladed by the now hostile village, failed morale, and was charged by the French facing them. At the same time, 2 further battalions charged up the hill into the West-Prussian line.
The troops next to the village decided enough was enough, and turned tail before the hostiles arrived. This caused the already shaken landwehr troops and the supporting battery to rout as well.
The only troops left with some dignity was the battalion standing in line. Not at all intimidated by the French waves crashing at the hill, they leveled muskets, and fired into the advancing columns. With such ferocious result that the troops facing them turned back and ran for their lives.
Their cheers, however, would be short-lived - looking around they realised that, together with the fusiliers in the adjacent wood, they were all that was standing in front of an entire French division.
Thus, we decided the battle was over. With some luck the Prussians might be able to salvage two half-brigades, but probably no more than that. A clear and overwhelming victory to the French, but a game that could have gone either way, and proved very interesting to fight. The Prussians certainly were not helped by dismal dice rolls for morale tests and shooting, but whether that was the deciding factor? I'm not at all sure.
We all felt that the result felt 'right', all things that happened felt like they might have happened in the real thing.
From the Prussian point of view, I would next time have used the village differently - keep the line back behind the village while putting better troops in it. Thus forcing the French to deal with the village or suffer enfilading fire. Similarly, this would have made my lines of communication between left and right flanks much shorter and effective.