Tuesday, 1 October 2013

6mm!!! Seriously?

Having identified the battles to the East of Paris as a starting point, I then needed to choose one or two battles from those listed in my last post.  I was looking for a battle of around 20,000 men per side with units that also fought in the larger battles.  Given that Blucher was the most aggressive of the Allied commanders, it should come as no surprise that the Army of Silesia was involved in most of the major battles.  I also have a sizeable collection of Prussians in 28mm (Elite and Connoisseur) and so have a good knowledge of Prussian army organisation.  So it was an easy decision for me to start with the Army of Silesia.

My next conundrum was which battle to start with.  After reading through accounts of the main battles I have decided to start with Montmirail as this will provide me with three Russian Corps (two infantry and one cavalry), one Prussian Corps and several French Corps including the Imperial Guard.  I can then expand these forces to cover the rest of the Six Days of Glory battles against the army of Silesia.  I’ll cover the history, army lists and my reasons for choosing these battles in future posts. 

Whilst studying these battles it became apparent that 28mm figures were not going to work as

1.     The size of the forces are too big without using a large figure ratio, I didn’t want to do this as I felt that this was running against my vision for this project.
2.     The size of the battlefields meant that I wouldn’t be able to accurately recreate the battlefields on my standard 8x6 table.
3.     Napoleon’s tactics in a lot of these battles involved isolating and surrounding single enemy Corps or dividing armies by obtaining a central position and dividing enemy Corps.

All of this meant that I was looking at a smaller scale than 28mm.  My first thought was 15mm, but, again this is still too big for many of the battles without comprising on scale or ratios.  I’ve always been one of those gamers who has laughed at 6mm and questioned why anyone would use this scale rather than painted blocks of wood.  However, there has been some excellent demo games produced at various shows over the past couple of years and I’ve slowly come round to benefits of 6mm. Given the issues above and my limited amount of painting time, I’ve decided that I will try using 6mm for this project.

I’ve spent some time in recent weeks looking at the various suppliers of 6mm figures and have decided that I will use mostly Baccus figures for this project as I prefer the style of these figures over those produced by Adler (I really don’t like the large heads) although I may use a mixture of both when it comes to cavalry and personalities.

Considering the Russians had the largest involvement from the Allied armies at Montmirail I have decided to start with them.

A quick trip down to Castle Donnington at the weekend provided me with a couple of packs of Russian infantry in greatcoats and some skirmishers to go with them.  I’ll get these painted up over the next week or so and post up some pictures to show the results.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

1814 Campaign Overview

Napoleon’s position at the start of 1814 was precarious, he had in the previous two years lost two armies numbering  approximately half a million men each.  By January 1814 Naploeon was facing an invasion of France on multiple fronts.  In the south, Soult and Suchet faced the Anglo-Spanish armies crossing over the Pyrenees, In Italy Eugene was facing an Austrian army under Bellegarde and in the East a combined army of Austrians, Prussians, Russians, Wurtembergers and Bavarians was already across the Rhine.  In total the Allies had close to one million men in the field (750,000 in the first line and 250,000 in reserve). 

 (Map taken from http://www.napolun.com/mirror/napoleonistyka.atspace.com/index.html )
To oppose these armies, Napoleon had less than 250,000 troops, over half of which were recently drafted conscripts.  Napoleon had tried, unsuccessfully, to raise additional soldiers:

"A decree ordering a levy of 300,000 soldiers was made, and another augmenting the Guard to 112,500 men... The levy, however, was not successful. France was exhausted not only of her men, but even of her youth, and boys were now in his greatest need to form his battalions.
To add to his trouble, as fortune always seems to delight in pushing down a falling favorite, the Typhus fever broke out among his troops along the Rhine." (Headley - "The Imperial Guard of Napoleon"

Most leaders facing these odds would have capitulated and sued for favourable terms of surrender.  However, Napoleon was not interested in surrender and was determined “never to make any preparation for abandoning Paris and to bury himself, if necessary, in its ruins.” (Petre – “Napoleon at Bay” quoting Corr. 21,089).  His main plan was to prevent the junction of Blucher and Schwarzenberg and to defeat them separately.      This is the campaign that showed how much Napoleon could achieve in circumstances that were terminal.  Many historians point to this campaign as the best examples of Napoleon’s genius as a general and his abilities to inspire armies in the face of overwhelming odds.

"The Emperor's greatest antagonists are forced to admit that he excelled himself in the winter campaign which he conducted in the first three months of 1814. No previous general had ever shown such talent, or achieved so much with such feeble resources. With a few thousand men, most of whom were inexperienced conscripts, one saw him face the armies of Europe, turning up everywhere with these troops, which he led from one point to another with marvellous rapidity. 

Taking advantage of all the resources of the country in order to defend it, he hurried from the Austrians to the Russians, and from the Russians to the Prussians, going from Blücher to Schwarzenberg and from him to Sacken, sometimes beaten by them, but much more often the victor. He hoped, for a time, that he might drive the foreigners, disheartened by frequent defeats, from French soil and back across the Rhine. All that was required was a new effort by the nation; but there was general war-weariness..."  (Baron de Marbot)

My focus, therefore, will be this campaign to the east of Paris between the forces under Napoleons command and those of Blucher and Schwarzenberg.  These battles typically involve 20,000 to 30,000 men per side although the larger battles (La Rothiere and Laon) involve Allied armies of between 80,000 and 100,000 men.   My plan, therefore, is to start with the medium sized battles (20,000 men per side) and build up to the largest (La Rothiere). 

The main battles of this campaign (excluding skirmishes and sieges) and the estimated numbers of troops involved are shown below (the victor is shown in parentheses):

Brienne 29 January  French 36,000 men  Allies 28,000 men (French)
La Rothiere 1 February  French 45,000 men Allies 80,000 men engaged (Allied)
La-Ferte-Sous-Jouarre 9th February  French 3,450 men  Allies 5,800 men  (Allied)
Champaubert 10th February French 15,000 men Allies 3,700 (French)
Momtmirail 11th February French 25,000 men Allies 32,000 (French)
Sens 11 February French 2,500 men Allies 4,000 men (Allied)
Chateau-Thierry 12 February  – French 20,000 men Allies 30,000 men (French)
Vauchamps 14 February – French 11,000 men Allies 21,000 men (French)
Soissons 14 February – French  4,000 men Allies 4,200 men (Allied)
Nangis 17th February – French 19,000 men Allies 4,500 men (French)
Montereau 18th February – French 30,000 men Allies 15,000 men (French)
Bar-Sur-Aube 26/27 February – French  30,000 men Allies 30,000 men (Allied)
La-Ferte-Sur-Aube 28 February – French 2,500 men Allies 23,000 men (Allied)
Gue-a-Tresmes 28 February – French 14,500 men Allies 12,000 men (French)
St Julien 1 March – French 11,000 men Allies 6,000 men (Allied)
Laubressel 3/4 March – French 20,000 men Allies 32,000 men (Allied)
Craonne 7  March – French 35,000 men Allies 23,000 men (Allied)
Laon 9/10 March – French 39,000 men Allies 100,000 men (Allied)
Macon  11 March – French 6,000 men Allies 8,000 men (Allied)
Limonest 16 – 20 March French 20,000 men Allies 30,000 men (Allied)
Arcis-Sur-Aube  20/21 March French 30,000 men Allies 43,000 men (Allied)
Fere-Champenoise 25 March French 21,000 men Allies 28,000 men (Allied)
Bannes 25 March French 3,800 men Allies 28,000 men (Allied)
Claye-Souilly 28 March French 6,650 men Allies 4,500 men (French – ambush)
Paris 30 March French 41,000 men Allies 58,000 men (Allied) last battle in Northern France

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Resources Page

One of the biggest obstacles to wargaming the 1814 campaign is the paucity of information available, the majority of books on the topic are terribly lacking in the detail that wargamers require.  Order of battle information, if it’s included at all, is given at divisional level and the description of battles is far more narrative that I’ve found in books covering other campaigns.  Battle maps are almost non-existent in most books on the subject.  

Both Nafziger and Leggiere (his first book only covers the events leading up the battle of Brienne on 31st January 1814) have promised books on the campaign, but these show no signs of appearing any time soon.  Perhaps this is one of the main reasons that the campaign is not that popular amongst wargamers.

In order to pull together the detailed information I needed for this campaign I have had to dig far wider and deeper than ever before.  This digging has been surprisingly fruitful and rewarding and over the coming months I plan to share the results of this work so that other wargamers have access to the detail needed to game the battles and/or the campaign and add their own scenarios to this fascinating period of the Napoleonic wars.
I have added a resources page and will slowly update it with all the sources of information I have found so far and any others that I come across in the future.  If you know of something that I have missed then please let me know.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Why 1814??

Like a lot of people I've met I was convinced for years that the painting at the top of this Blog depicted Napoleon's retreat from Moscow in 1812.  It was many years later that I discovered it was entitled 'Napoleon on Campaign' by Ernest Messonier and actually represented the 1814 campaign. It was shortly after this that I bought a framed print of the painting at the Reading wargames show.  That was over twenty years ago and it's been on my study wall in four different houses since then.

Given that the bi-centennial is fast approaching and my desire to get back to Napoleonic wargamimg I decided that this would be a good campaign to tackle.  I already had Petre's Napoleon at Bay and read through this earlier in the year.  I was amazed at what Napoleon managed to achieve with his 'Marie Louises' against overwhelming numbers of Allied troops. 

From a wargaming perspective the 1814 campaign has a large number of battles ranging in size from La Rothiere and Laon (100,000 Allied troops) to small skirmishes with ambushes and village/town assaults mixed in. There are also a lot of battles with forces of approximately 20,000 men per side, so are a good size for wargames.  In addition, Napoleon participates in all the important engagements and the Guard make up the line infantry and fight from the start of battles, even the old guard in some cases.  Isn’t this every wargamers dream – Napoleon leading an army composed entirely of Imperial Guard?  It certainly works for me.

The other attraction of this campaign is the sheer number of nations involved, quite often in small mixed forces.  This gives me the opportunity to create small combined armies containing a number of different nationalities i.e., Russian, Prussian, Austrian, Wurtemburg, Bavarian, etc. There are also the Anglo-Portugese/Spanish troops involved in the Pyrenees and the Italian/Neopolitans in the Italian theatre.

All of this combined with the 'what if....' scenarios I referred to in my previous post combine to provide a wealth of wargaming opportunities that i want to explore over the next 18 months.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Autumn Campaign Begins

Now that the Summer is starting to recede I find myself thinking about the dark evenings and cold days ahead and what projects I'll be working on over the coming months.  Having had a few years off wargaming and painting i've decided to return to my favourite period - Napoleonics.  This was the first period I gamed at the tender age of 19 at Stoke wargames club.  This was mainly due to the location of the Napoleonics room location at the top of the stairs and was thus the first room I came across after entering the club.  I still remember the sight of that 15x6 table filled with 15mm figures recreating the battle of Waterloo.

I've got quite a collection of 28mm figures (mostly Prussian) from Elite and Connoisseur and a few battalions of French.  I wanted to do a campaign that would allow me to collect units from lots of different nationalities and game battles from small skirmishes up to large engagements.  Given that my figures wouldn't be ready until next year I decided to have a go at the 1814 campaign as I've never gamed any of the battles from this campaign.

The 1814 campaign in France seems largely ignored by wargamers who prefer to concentrate on the larger battles found in the 1812/1813 and 1815 campaigns.  I have never understood why this campaign is unpopular even though scholars consider it to be one of Napoleon’s finest campaigns, alongside the Italian campaign at the start of his career.  
For me, the iconic painting by Ernest Messonier has always been one of my favourite historical paintings and the first one I ever bought.  It has adorned the wall of my study for over twenty five years and has been a source of personal inspiration during some tough times in my life.  In spite of this, I like many Napoleonic gamers, have never considered the battles of Montmirail, Vauchamps, Craonne, Montereau or Paris as worthy of my time.

This all changed when I read Petrie’s Napoleon at Bay earlier this year, six months and many books later I am utterly absorbed by this campaign and the wargaming potential it provides.

This blog is intended to collect my thoughts, plans and experiences of wargaming the 1814 campaign, I also hope that it provides inspiration for other wargamers as we approach it’s bi-centennial year.  I will also post reviews and recommendations on books, websites and boardgames that provide additional background information for the campaign.