At Any Cost: An After-Action-Report – Part VI – Evening Action

Other April 17, 2019 0
At Any Cost: An After-Action-Report – Part VI – Evening Action

Part VI

By Josef Tham

Ladmirault (green) had continued to march his IV Corps toward the sound of the guns, now actually reaching the Fond de la Cuve ravine, but Lorencez’s division (green) dawdled back east, asking the citizens of Moulin for directions. The French cavalry divisions have continued their flanking marches. Oh yeah, and the Prussian Aggressive Tactics showed up, again to no effect. And once again, the French CIC chit would not appear next turn!

Evening Action (6 pm)

Three hours of good daylight left… and DARN but that IV Corps (green) is taking a long time to get into action! My guesstimate of ten hours of marching to the Fond de la Cuve ravine seems pretty spot on but that’ll leave little time for assaulting Mars-la-Tour, especially with III Corps (red) shifting its axis of advance.

Things Getting Crowded at Mars-la-Tour

Things got off to a hot start over at Mars-la-Tour this turn! The activation of X Corps (green) and a Krupp’s Guns chit saw another III Corps brigade (red) reduced and more French artillery batteries succumbing. DuBarail’s horse artillery (light green) fired on their Prussian Guard counterparts without effect. The Bazaine’s Malaise chit made an early appearance and was placed on LeBoeuf (which would not only slow his advance but also create a traffic jam for IV Corps behind him), but already two chits had been placed on the Bazaine’s Leadership track so chances for it to take effect were reduced.

Ladmirault’s IV Corps (green) ended up having to squeeze in behind LeBoeuf’s lines (red) regardless, activating as the first of the two, the open space south of the ravine now jam-packed with troops and guns. Lorencez’s division in the east continued its break in sunny Moulin (OOC Frozen).

LeBoeuf must have been seriously rattled, because not only was his activation preceded by a Degrade Next Chit FOW Event, the roll for Bazaine’s Malaise failed on a 10!

LeBoeuf’s III Corps (red) has pummeled Voigts-Rhetz’s right wing (green) outside Mars-la-Tour the previous turn but is now taking heavy casualties. The rolling fields before the town are getting jam-packed with French formations as Ladmirault’s IV Corps (green) arrives. To the south of the town, Rheinbaben’s cavalry (white) and units from Alvensleben’s corps (yellow) are pulling back to protect Tronville.

 

Assaults in the East
The Prussian Aggressive Tactics chit made an early appearance, and with no chits on the right track yet the Prussian brigade in Flavigny ran a gauntlet of French fire to assault the defenders of Vionville! Despite being fired on by three brigades and one horse artillery unit (the latter twice as it moved past, although the gunners had Rationed Ammo) the Prussians of Stulpnagel’s 9th brigade came through unscathed and performed a textbook assault, putting a couple of Morale Hits on the defenders.

Some Prussian staff officers, noting that Flavigny suddenly had only artillery for defense and that 9th brigade was sitting in a very exposed position, immediately ordered it back again, chased by a couple of rounds of canister from the ammo-challenged horse artillery. I used the Prussian CIC chit rather than risk VI Corps activating first, but I needn’t have bothered as Alvensleben’s III Corps was the very next chit drawn. Prussian fire was (for once) ineffective, and the two battleworn brigades and cavalry moved to screen Tronville. This somewhat lackluster performance was made up for by the successful rebuilding of Alvensleben’s last broken brigade and Corps Artillery.

Frossard’s II Corps (khaki) managed little, rallying its disrupted Corps Artillery and building a single Hasty Works but failing to rebuild any units.

Canrobert (yellow), always dependable, was forced into Aggressive Posture by Command Initiative, but despite laboring under several Morale Hit markers managed to reduce Alvensleben’s cavalry and assault his now badly shot-up artillery-stack, which only barely held on after having missed their Defensive Fire.
This was followed by French Cloud of Skirmishers and Beaten Zone chits which broke and disrupted more of Alvensleben’s poor artillery.

Alvensleben’s positions outside Flavigny are now suffering badly from the fierce attention of Canrobert’s infantry brigades. French Chassepot rifle fire, skirmishers and bayonets are taking a heavy toll of his III Corps (yellow). Frossard to the east (khaki) is pretty much shattered, but Canrobert’s VI Corps (yellow) may soon batter its way to the very gates of Flavigny!

 

A view of the battlefield at the end of the 6 pm turn. To the south, Manstein’s small IX Corps (orange) has arrived, but it looks like it’s going north-west as the French Imperial Guard (purple) and Army Reserve Artillery (white) has turned Rezonville to the north into a veritable fortress.

Evening Artillery Harvest (7 pm)

Pre-turn Analysis
So… over at Mars-la-Tour LeBoeuf’s III Corps (red) tried to bull through and walked into a wall of fire, weakening X Corps (green) somewhat but getting half its brigades broken or battleworn and losing a lot of artillery in the bargain. Ladmirault’s IV Corps (green) has arrived but doesn’t have room to deploy properly to support LeBoeuf.

In the east the Prussians still have a strong position in Flavigny (yellow), facing Frossard’s II Corps (khaki) which hasn’t got a single fresh brigade to lead an assault. To its north, however, we have Canrobert’s VI Corps (yellow), still strong but currently vulnerable due to the many Morale Hits on its units. Apart from the Flavigny position most of Alvensleben’s units are battleworn and demoralized. Still, I think Flavigny will hold until the end.

Goeben (brown) and Manstein (orange) will probably do little but try to stab Frossard in the flank or try to relieve Flavigny if necessary. The French Imperial Guard Corps (purple) may decide to have a shot at Flavigny if Frossard gets out of the way to turn south, but will have to leave some units in the Hasty Works to defend Rezonville.

Target-Rich Environment

LeBoeuf (red) tried to make up for his previous delay by sending three brigades (one already battleworn, another disrupted) from three different divisions against the Prussians on the road to Gravelotte, foregoing any rallying in order to assault the foe. Alas, preparatory fire was insufficient to properly suppress the two battleworn Prussian units (one artillery, one infantry, the latter suffering a Shaken marker) and yet another French brigade was decimated by Defensive Fire, the other two Shaken and Disrupted respectively. The assault that followed was repulsed, the battered French units pulling back a hex.

Some French skirmishers and a Beaten Zone chit proved a worse challenge for the Prussian defenders than three brigades’ worth of infantry in an assault, but the damage done was mostly fixed by the diligent officers (Inspirational Leadership chit).

The rolling fields between Mars-la-Tour and the Fond de la Cuve ravine are about to become very crowded as LeBoeuf (red) is narrowing his front to make room for Ladmirault (green), and soon to become littered with French dead…

Ladmirault’s IV Corps (green), taking advantage of the little space available now that LeBoeuf had narrowed its front, deployed north of Mars-la-Tour, sending its cavalry west to threaten the Verdun road.

Both Ladmirault’s and LeBoeuf’s divisions on the roads back east actually began moving again, although the latter only hesitatingly so (Maneuver and Cautious OOC chits).

When Voigts-Rhetz’s X Corps activated it took advantage of the target rich environment. Accurate Prussian artillery fire broke two divisional artillery units (one each from III and IV Corps) and disrupted some infantry. The fate of the French gunners caused panic among their brethren further behind, disrupting another of Ladmirault’s divisional artillery units as well as his Corps Artillery (Panic Test chit). The units standing on the road to Gravelotte failed to do much damage against the brigade just in front but stood firm (well, reasonably so as the infantry was Shaken and prevented from rallying due to French proximity).

Accurate Prussian fire is causing heavy loss of life and panic among the French advancing on Mars-la-Tour. Even French gunners behind the immediate frontline are sickened and dismayed by the carnage (a Panic Test chit and poor rolls). To the west, Ladmirault’s cavalry (green) is preparing to aid DuBarail’s 1st Reserve Cavalry Division (light green) in their attack on the Verdun Road next turn, not even caring that they’ll become Out Of Command when detaching themselves, as the only turn remaining after next is the Dusk turn.

All Quiet on the Vionville Front
Alvensleben (yellow), sorely pressed by Canrobert’s VI Corps (yellow), tried to make the best of the situation. His artillery at Flavigny reduced another of Canrobert’s brigades, the disrupted horse artillery withdrew to the heights south of Flavigny, the battleworn brigade south of French-held Vionville managed to throw up some Hasty Works for itself and the Corps Artillery, and the other brigades went to Tronville, accompanied by the battleworn corps cavalry. Alas he failed to rebuild Buddenbrock’s artillery unit.

Canrobert’s VI Corps (yellow), despite a heavy investment of chits, was the victim of Bazaine’s Malaise this turn (rolled a 10 on the Bazaine’s Leadership track), evidently interrupted in his plans to try to support any Imperial Guard advance on Flavigny by couriers from a now suddenly hesitant Bazaine urging him to see to the defense of Vionville instead.

The Cavalry Masses
Wilhelm’s 6th Cavalry Division, still at full strength despite the hard fighting of the morning, now switched its attention to the other side of the battlefield, where the road to Verdun looked ill protected by just a few Guard cavalry. Over there, DuBarail’s horse artillery failed to do any damage but his light cavalry (light green) deployed for a charge later, just out of effective range of the Guard horse artillery. Forton (light blue), with his cavalry division finally reformed (including the rebuilt horse artillery) was approaching Ville-sur-Yron further north of the road. Rheinbaben of the 5th Cavalry Division (white), seeing some of Alvensleben’s troops now protecting Tronville, took his cue from Wilhelm and also advanced toward the Verdun road. The Guard cavalry did little (drew a Maneuver OOC chit).

Bourbaki Eyes Flavigny
Any plans on behalf of the French Imperial Guard (purple) to have a go at Flavigny were inconvenienced by the fact that they activated before Frossard. Even seeing the Prussians and Hessians to their south veer off toward the town, ensuring Rezonville would be safe, Bourbaki realized that the approaches were really rather crowded for any truly effective deployment. Even so he managed to weave his quick-marching guardsmen onto the ridge overlooking the town, even getting his powerful horse artillery along, leaving the rest of the artillery and cavalry behind at Rezonville.

Frossard (khaki), eager to help, redeployed his Corps artillery to avoid having to fire over the guardsmen’s heads and set up a screen of cavalry to prevent Goeben and Manstein from interfering.

Drums roll and regimental flags are unfurled as the proud French Imperial Guard (purple) prepares to abandon their job as garrison troops back at Rezonville and instead have a go at stubborn Flavigny… Manstein’s IX Corps (orange), understanding the graveness of the situation, races to give aid to Alvensleben’s beleaguered defenders (yellow), but will first have to pass Frossard’s Corps Artillery (khaki).

Stulpnagel’s men in Flavigny (one brigade plus divisional artillery), seeing the mass of guardsmen deploying on the heights, took careful aim and unleashed a storm of fire (CIC chit), disrupting the Imperial Guard’s largest infantry and horse artillery units which had been stacked together.

Goeben’s artillery (brown), as expected, cruelly bombarded Frossard’s line east of Flavigny (khaki) from behind, breaking an already battered battleworn brigade but failing to make an impression on the Corps Artillery. His infantry brigade began wading across the forested stream to the high ground on the ridge.

Manstein’s infantry (its strongest brigade having advanced ahead with an Auftragstaktik chit) managed to Shake the newly redeployed II Corps Artillery (khaki) but declined to assault it.

The Imperial Guard (purple), deployed on the heights above Flavigny, is getting to know the terror of the Krupp guns. Canrobert’s VI Corps (yellow), having fought Alvensleben (also yellow) and Prussian cavalry all day, is looking tattered, having lost almost all artillery and having had half its brigades reduced to battleworn status.

The Prussian Aggressive Tactics chit was degraded this turn, wasting a couple of Prussian chits that had already been placed on the counter-track.

 

A view of the whole battlefield at the end of the 7 pm turn. Only one hour of good daylight left… Flavigny is surrounded by the French on three sides. The Prussians at Mars-la-Tour are beset by two whole French corps but holding so far. The Prussian cavalry, Rheinbaben’s 5th, and Wilhelm’s 6th Cavalry Divisions, or at least what remains of them, are spurring their horses west to protect the Verdun Road.

Last Hour of Daylight (8 pm)

The French began the turn without a CIC chit, again, to add to the woes of Bazaine suddenly beginning to go all historically dithering, as opposed to the determination shown in the beginning.

Over at the Verdun road, things are set up for a massive cavalry showdown during the last couple of turns, Prussian cavalry divisions rushing to intercept their French counterparts. Frankly, I suspect Rheinbaben and Wilhelm will be too late to save the Verdun Road exit hex if the Guard cavalry abandons it.

Anything could happen at Mars-la-Tour but I doubt the town will fall, not with the Prussian defenders from X Corps still essentially intact. The defenses east of the town are not as strong, a patchwork of battleworn brigades and cavalry, but I don’t think the French will be able to reach either Tronville or Puxieux before dark… well, possibly Tronville if the Prussian defense totally collapses.

The scene is set for big drama over at Flavigny, as the pride of the French Empire, its Imperial Guard Corps, is facing the stubborn defenders from Stulpnagel’s division in their Hasty Works. It’ll be bloody work for the guardsmen who haven’t had the time to set up any strong artillery stacks or bring mitrailleuses to wear down the Prussians properly. What can I say? I should have set the Guard on the task earlier, back when it was obvious Frossard wasn’t up to it!

The Mars-la-Tour Maelstrom
Ladmirault’s IV Corps (green) activated and began pouring Chassepot rifle fire into Mars-la-Tour to no effect; the stone walls protected the Prussians too well. In Defensive Posture due to the amount of Morale Hit markers on it, the formation then deployed its remaining strength to hopefully get some use from supporting fires from III Corps (red) before the end of the turn, then to make a rush at the easternmost hex of the town during the Dusk turn (9 pm) with all its four brigades if necessary.

The IV Corps cavalry was sent further east, ready to pounce on the Guard cavalry. Metman’s division in the east reached Jerusalem Farm and turned south-west in the footsteps of its parent corps.

The Prussian Aggressive Tactics chit made its dreaded appearance… as Flavigny represented only a Minor Victory while taking one of the Mars-la-Tour hexes would mean a Major Victory I decided to have the 38th brigade from Schwartzkoppen’s division (green), currently occupying the western hex of the town, make a death rush. Charging the small hill to the north, stupidly advancing along a stream in full view of two whole French brigades, the brigade was then fired on by an additional couple of brigades as well as the powerful III Corps (red) horse artillery and Ladmirault’s (green) Corps Artillery, arriving disrupted and reduced, before trying to assault up the hill. Rolling surprisingly well at the worse possible odds (A2) it survived to be sent fleeing back to Mars-la-Tour. A Beaten Zone chit only barely avoided gunning down the remains as it fled back across the stream.

The rest of X Corps (green), clearly stunned by what was happening to their front, managed to miss with everything but re-arranged their units to replace the shattered brigade with a new one supported by plenty of artillery. On second thought… perhaps I should have used the Prussian Aggressive Tactics chit on Stulpnagel at Flavigny, who didn’t have any replacements available, but if the French managed to take the Verdun Road exit hex it wouldn’t matter (as they would then still have enough Control Markers for a Minor Victory).

LeBoeuf’s III Corps (red) activated and, in a display worthy of Napoleon the First’s own gunners, its horse artillery and Corps Artillery purely devastated the newly arrived Prussians in western Mars-la-Tour, disrupting and reducing both the infantry and artillery. If Ladmirault managed to activate before X Corps next turn (Dusk) he’d have an excellent chance of taking the hex!

Alas, this display didn’t extend to infantry assaults… three brigades (two fresh) attacked the battered Prussians on the road to Gravelotte, trying to push through to Tronville. The already battleworn brigade was disrupted by Defensive Fire and couldn’t fulfill its assault and the fresh brigade coming up from the rear was Shaken. The leading brigade (SP 5 but Shaken) faced strong resistance (one Shaken SP 4 battleworn brigade and one SP 4 artillery unit, for a total of SP 5) without sufficient support (the other supporting brigade was SP 4 but Shaken and thus only added SP 3 to the total, for odds of 7 vs 5), and the French were hurled back (A2). Looks like Tronville and Puxieux would remain unthreatened!

In the east, Lorencez’s division reached St Hubert.

Mars-la-Tours in peril! LeBoeuf’s gunners (red) have badly weakened the defenders in the western part of the vital town! Before that, a foolish brigadier ordered Schwartzkopp’s 38th infantry brigade to its near destruction. On the road east the French infantry has been repulsed but west of the city multiple fresh brigades await the order to assault the town.

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