At Any Cost: Metz 1870 – Session 2, Part II – The Early Afternoon Battle

Other May 7, 2019 0
At Any Cost: Metz 1870 – Session 2, Part II – The Early Afternoon Battle

By Josef Tham:

The Early Afternoon Battle (1 pm to 2 pm)

Ok… so far the fighting has taken a different turn compared to my first session with this scenario. With Flavigny taken and fortified by Frossard so early I just can’t see the Prussians sacrificing men to take it away from him. If the French can then concentrate most of their strength at Vionville they’ll take that town as well, sooner or later. So it seems more sensible for Alvensleben to pull back and try to build some Hasty Works on the heights behind the stream before the Imperial Guard or Ladmirault’s IV Corps arrive.

Of course, losing both Vionville and Flavigny will necessitate taking Jarny or (at the very least) Bruville. With X Corps reinforcements marching so fast I can’t see LeBoeuf taking Mars-la-Tour but he really only needs to act defensively from now on. I’ll try pull the Prussian cavalry back to aid X Corps before Rheinbaben’s 5th Cavalry Division (white) gets decimated (but hopefully not before some of Buddenbrock’s men can take the place of the cuirassiers in Vionville). Wilhelm’s 6th Cavalry Division (dark green) is already heading west, sans horse artillery.

Rheinbaben’s cuirassiers (white) in Vionville were charged and broken by Bataille’s division (khaki), which then took the town (French CIC chit). So now both Vionville and Flavigny were in the hands of Frossard’s hard-charging II Corps (khaki).

Canrobert’s VI Corps (yellow) didn’t want to be left behind and moved up next to Bataille’s men, just in time to receive a charge from Buddenbrock’s 12th brigade (Prussian Aggressive Tactics making its first appearance, as a Random Event chit). The Prussians weathered the Defensive Fire from both Bataille’s and Canrobert’s men, rallied (Inspirational Leadership chit) and put a couple of Morale Hits on the French stack outside the town.

When Alvensleben’s III Corps (yellow) activated, a Beaten Zone chit almost resulted in that brigade becoming Shaken and thus not able to withdraw while the rest of Buddenbrock’s division pulled back to Tronville… almost but not quite, as its rifle fire devastated the French stack it had just assaulted, reducing and disrupting Bataille’s divisional artillery and Tixier’s 2nd brigade. The only other available French unit to use the Beaten Zone chit was on Rationed Ammo and predictably failed to put enough lead into the air to prevent the Prussians escaping.

That same hard-working brigade and its fellow brigade then built Hasty Works in and just north of Tronville, courtesy of the Prussian CIC chit.

(The 12th brigade would go on to further heroism later in the session…)

Frossard (khaki) was the victim of the Bazaine’s Malaise chit at 1 am (failed the roll despite two chits on the right track, and wouldn’t have been able to do much anyway, as it was a Lull in the Battle), and thus failed to further reinforce his corps’ gains. The same Lull also kept Wilhelm’s 6th Cavalry Division (dark green) immobilized and unable to rebuild its horse artillery (although it managed both on the next turn), and robbed the French of any chance at getting the CIC chit during the 2 pm turn (as no chits had yet been invested on the French Offensive Spirit track). Incidentally, the Prussian Reinforcements track was loaded and Voigts-Rhetz’s Corps Artillery caught up with the rest of the corps.

At 2 pm, Frossard (khaki) took up his reins again, deploying his II Corps forward on both sides of the stream in front of Flavigny, preparing to take on Alvensleben’s positions, trying to leave room for the Imperial Guard and Canrobert’s VI Corps to deploy on either side. The Prussians facing him hadn’t quite managed to build all the Hasty Works they wanted yet and what Morale Hits their artillery inflicted on II Corps were quickly rallied. Even the Prussian CIC chit failed to improve Stulpnagel’s defenses (rolled a 9 twice when trying to build Hasty Works, and failed to put anything more than a Shaken marker on the nearest of Bataille’s brigades).

Canrobert’s VI Corps (yellow) was the last activate on the 2 pm turn, easily passing the Bazaine’s Malaise roll, but couldn’t rally Tixier’s units due to a Command Initiative chit forcing it to go into Aggressive Mode. It pressed forward into the gap between Vionville (now abandoned by the advancing II Corps) and the forest, planning to push west along the Major Road and through the forest itself.

Rheinbaben’s 5th Cavalry Division (white), having just taken a beating at Vionville, retired at full speed to Mars-la-Tour, rallying and setting its horse artillery batteries up in the two town hexes as a defense against LeBoeuf’s advance guard cavalry. On the next turn, those pulled out and deployed to the west of the town, the division even rebuilding the broken 12th Cuirassier brigade (at cadre strength).

Voigts-Rhetz’s X Corps failed to reach the town during the 1 am turn due to a late-appearing Lull in the Battle, but did so at 2 pm, with Kraatz-Koschlau’s division and the Corps Artillery also moving on-map from the south.

LeBoeuf (red) saw the long columns of Prussians troops beyond Mars-la-Tour and decided he didn’t much care for sending his III Corps into a potential deathtrap, instead deploying defensively on the ridge above the Fond de la Cuve ravine.

The East
Ladmirault’s IV Corps (green) reached Verneville, while the late-arriving Lorencez and his division moved on-map from Metz, immediately crowding Metman’s division from III Corps (red), which had been using the same road for the last couple of turns. Metman, however, picked up his pace (Maneuver OOC chit, twice in a row).

The French Imperial Guard (purple) activated and marched quickly and efficiently, its advance brigade reaching Rezonville during the 1 pm turn, then moved south to deploy on II Corps’ left flank. Its OOC cavalry brigade at Jarny stood still (Frozen OOC chit), but suddenly hurried southward (Maneuver OOC chit at 2 pm).

Heavy investment on the Prussian Reinforcements track paid off again, meaning Manstein’s units from IX Corps (orange) would show up early.

Image 2 pm End

Image 2 pm End Close-Up

Canrobert’s VI Corps (yellow) has occupied Vionville and Frossard is pushing his II Corps (khaki) aggressively toward Tronville, Alvensleben’s III Corps (yellow) falling back before the French onslaught. The French Imperial Guard under Bourbaki (purple) is also preparing to go into the fray, in what is turning out to be a massive French attack on a three-corps front! Schwartzkoppen’s division from Voigts-Rhetz’s X Corps (green) has reached and taken Mars-la-Tour, supported by Rheinbaben’s 5th Cav (white), just pulled back from Vionville. LeBoeuf decides he doesn’t want to risk his III Corps (red) against the oncoming Prussian columns and deploys defensively on the ridge above the Fond de la Cuve ravine. Ladmirault’s IV Corps (green) has reached Verneville and turns south.

Notre Glorieux Canrobert; Sans Peur Et Sans Reproche (3 pm)
Ok, LeBoeuf will soon have all of X Corps as well as two slightly understrength Prussian cavalry divisions trying to mess him up and by-pass him, while Alvensleben will have to keep II, VI, and the Imperial Guard Corps away from Puxieux. In a couple more hours Manstein (orange) and Goeben (brown) will arrive from the south, probably at more or less the same time Ladmirault’s IV Corps reaches Rezonville.
So far there hasn’t really been any heavy fighting. Apart from Tixier’s division, the casualties have been suffered by the cavalry divisions on both sides. That’s probably about to change…

The remainder of X Corps (green) reached Mars-la-Tour, but the divisional artillery already there wasn’t impressing anyone, failing to hit the French guns on the hill to the north.

Rheinbaben’s 5th Cavalry Division (white) deployed its squadrons west of the town while the horse artillery pummeled LeBoeuf’s cavalry, reducing his Chasseurs and Shaking his Dragoons.
LeBoeuf’s artillery replied but failed to hit anything, and his III Corps (red) sent Nayral’s division and the Corps Artillery to extend the corps line to the west, planning to deploy in or near the woods nearby, while withdrawing the vulnerable and battered corps cavalry division.

Wilhelm’s 6th Cavalry Division (dark green) reached Puxieux, planning to continue west to deploy on Rheinbaben’s left flank. (Which it would turn out not to do, being needed elsewhere…)

Forton (light blue) activated for the first time, his lonely HQ riding north to join LeBoeuf, managing to rebuild its cuirassier unit (at cadre strength).

Bataille’s division paid the price for its aggressiveness when a Prussian brigade, courtesy of an Auftragstaktik chit, sallied down the heights and comprehensively drubbed his 1st brigade, sending it back in retreat, reduced.

Alvensleben, with Stulpnagel’s division first activated by the CIC chit, proceeded to further devastate Bataille’s division, leaving its artillery in reduced shambles. The Corps Artillery teamed up with Stulpnagel’s divisional artillery behind some Hasty Works, forming one of those dreaded Prussian Deathstar artillery stacks, while the infantry prepared to dig even more works on the heights.

Frossard (khaki), forced into Aggressive Posture by a Prussian Command Initiative chit, couldn’t rally Bataille’s men and so withdrew them slightly to leave room for Canrobert (yellow) to deploy. He also prepared to build some Hasty Works next turn for a couple of artillery stacks of his own on the heights south of Flavigny, hoping to send some hurt Stulpnagel’s way when the Imperial Guard showed up on II Corps’ left. Reports of approaching Prussian columns from the south were duly ignored. Bourbaki shook off some last-minute doubts (passed his Bazaine’s Malaise roll) and marched his guardsmen (purple) up behind Frossard’s frontline.

Canrobert, throwing caution to the wind, threw his VI Corps (yellow) horse artillery out as a shield between the mass of his corps and Stulpnagel’s division to the south, so that his remaining artillery would only have to deal with Buddenbrock (the French forming a strong but potentially vulnerable stack of Bisson’s and d’Villier’s batteries within effective range of the nearest Prussian positions). Meanwhile, the VI Corps infantry started infiltrating through the woods.

A gutsy and dangerous move; but it was either that or stay at long range and get blasted regardless.

The East
The French Army Reserve Artillery reached Rezonville. Metman’s division from III Corps (red) had reached Jerusalem Farm and decided to take a break (Frozen OOC chit). Ladmirault’s IV Corps did nothing on the 3 pm turn, the victim of a Degrade Next Chit FOW Event.

Again, the roll for Prussian Reinforcements was successful, with Manstein (orange) about to fall Frossard and Bourbaki in the flank next turn. Despite many chits invested, the French would have to manage without their CIC chit for the 4 pm turn.

As the turn ends the Prussians find themselves in the rather unusual situation of facing the afternoon with almost full strength; two entire corps, two slightly dinged cavalry divisions and about another division’s worth of troops coming up from the south over the next couple of hours… that said, to win they really have to go on the offensive and can’t waste any time about it.

Image 3 pm End

Correction: Wilhelm’s horse artillery (under the HQ) is actually battleworn, and Bataille’s 2nd brigade is not. This is corrected in the close-up below.)

Image 3 pm End Close-Up

On the Prussian left, Voigts-Rhetz (X Corps, green) has arrived in strength at Mars-la-Tour. Wilhelm’s 6th Cav (dark green) is pulling back to screen Puxieux while Alvensleben’s III Corps (yellow) is forming a solid line at Tronville. Canrobert’s VI Corps (yellow) and the French Imperial Guard (purple) are clearly planning to envelop his position from both flanks! Ladmirault’s IV Corps (green) has been delayed by a Degrade Next Chit FOW Event. Canu’s Army Reserve Artillery (white) has reached Rezonville. Forton (light blue) has managed to gather up some of his scattered 3rd Cav and his heading west.

Closing For A Clash Of Arms (4 pm)
So… the French before Tronville have put themselves in a position where they risk being pummeled by Alvensleben’s artillery before they can do any good, depending on the chit draw. Manstein’s small IX Corps formation (orange) will appear and probably give Bourbaki’s guardsmen something to worry about. Voigts-Rhetz will probably need another turn to set up before his X Corps and the Prussian cavalry divisions can start dealing with the obstacle that is LeBoeuf.

With Alvensleben well dug in, the French were tempted to pick the Prussian Aggressive Tactics as their Planned Event chit, but as it was dependent on being very close to the enemy (something the French probably weren’t quite ready for this turn) they instead chose the Inspirational Leadership chit, hoping it’d help them weather the expected storm of Prussian artillery fire.

Ladmirault’s IV Corps (green) was delayed last turn when its activation was degraded so it won’t reach Rezonville until 5 pm at the earliest. It may end up defending Rezonville rather than taking a more offensive role. The current situation in the west doesn’t really warrant an immediate right turn, although IV Corps could reach Jarny before dark if it did.

The Gorze Road

(The Gorze Road is the one entering at 2729, leading north to Rezonville.) Manstein’s men from IX Corps (orange) were the first to activate, coming up the road at a run, the leading brigade from Wrangel’s division coming out of the forest at the Guard cavalry stationed there, which chose to abandon its position and retire back along the valley rather than face the howling Prussians. Wrangel’s reduced divisional artillery and a reduced Hessian brigade followed close on the first unit’s heels.

The Prussian Guard cavalry (purple; one small unit of Dragoons and one horse artillery unit) came barreling down the Verdun Road and immediately deployed on Rheinbaben’s left. During the rest of the session, they’d be OOC, lacking an HQ. Du Barail’s equally small 1st Reserve Cavalry Division (light green) also activated for the first time and rode out of Jarny to screen the town’s vulnerable western approaches. Forton (light blue) managed to gather up some scattered Dragoons of his own (successfully Rebuilding his Broken medium cavalry) and also rode west, reaching the outskirts of Bruville.

Voigts-Rhetz’s X Corps (green) fired to little effect on the hill with LeBoeuf’s horse artillery (and would probably have assaulted it, but was prevented from going into Aggressive Posture by a French Command Initiative chit), then extended its line to the west, preparing to envelop the French III Corps’ position (red) from the flank. Schwartzkoppen’s men built some Hasty Works in the eastern part of town.

Yet another Lull in the Battle FOW Event chit then resulted in neither of the Prussian cavalry divisions on the left being moved. Rheinbaben’s horse artillery at least got to shoot a little, but to no effect… unlike LeBoeuf’s horse artillery which got lucky and casualty reduced Voigts-Rhetz’s Corps Artillery!

Image 4 pm Mars-la-Tour

Voigts-Rhetz’s X Corps (green) is heading north, trying to outflank LeBoeuf (red) who is sending Nayral’s division and the Corps Artillery from his III Corps to intercept. Both Forton (3rd Cav, light blue) and Du Barail (1st Cav, light green) are preparing to screen Jarny. Prussian cavalry is also heading north in the shape of Rheinbaben’s 5th Cav (white) and some OOC Prussian Guard cavalry (purple).

The French Imperial Guard, seeing that the lazy common troopers of Frossard’s II Corps had not finished the Hasty Works they had been promised, decided to push ahead and take the fight to the Prussians, two brigades and all horse artillery moving down onto the valley floor all the way to the stream to get into effective rifle and artillery range. Bourbaki decided to leave his cavalry behind, out of his Command Range but hopefully, a useful speed bump against Manstein (orange) until Ladmirault (green) showed up.

That worthy was now in the vicinity of Gravelotte, but his IV Corps was getting a bit scattered due to the narrowness of the available roads.

Canu and the Army Reserve Artillery (white) got caught up in the general offensive excitement and also came rumbling down the road, the faster horse artillery reaching and joining the VI Corps gunline (yellow).

Frossard, furious at the rude Bourbaki, sent his II Corps (khaki) forward as well, emplacing two strong artillery stacks behind the advancing guardsmen, preparing to fire over their heads, pushing most of his infantry forward into the gap between the Imperial Guard and Canrobert’s VI Corps (yellow). The bewildered Hessians and Prussians on the Gorze Road were left with the impression that half the French army was running away from them.

Image 4 pm Three-Corps Attack

Although Alvensleben’s III Corps (yellow) has managed to throw up some Hasty Works, he is now facing three entire French corps – Canrobert’s VI (yellow), Frossard’s II (khaki) and Bourbaki’s Imperial Guard (purple), plus the French Army Reserve Artillery (white).

The Lull in the Battle chit meant Alvensleben could only fire this turn, doing so to some effect (casualty reducing and disrupting the stack with Canrobert’s and Canu’s horse artillery units) but unable to make an impression on either the Imperial Guard (purple) or II Corps (khaki), nor address the Low Ammo markers this firing accumulated on his Corps Artillery and one of Stuplnagel’s brigades (which was also unable to build Hasty Works and thus remained in the open, unprotected).

The East
Neither Metman’s nor Lorencez’s divisions moved anywhere this turn, the victim of the Lull and a Frozen OOC chit, respectively.

Image 4 pm End

In the west (left) the race for Jarny has begun. In the center, an epic clash is about to begin, with Alvensleben facing three times his own numbers. In the east (right) Manstein’s IX Corps (orange) has appeared and is advancing on Rezonville, facing a screen of Imperial Guard cavalry trying to delay him while Ladmirault’s IV Corps (green) is coming up from Gravelotte.

The Prussians had invested heavily against the possibility of the Prussian Aggressive Tactics chit showing up, as had the French against Bazaine’s Malaise, both useless expenditures, as the Lull in the Battle negated both those chits. Both those chits were chosen as Planned Events for next turn.

The French would, yet again, have to manage next turn without their CIC chit.

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