Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Waterloo 1815

Just before the end of the year (and the bicentenary) I've managed to refight the Waterloo battle. For those of you who might not know, it was the last remarkable battle of Napoleons's empire and of course the most famous: the french must destroy the british army led by Wellington, who has deployed himself behind a ridge (called today Wellington Ridge, how original...), anchoring their line with several villages. Napoleon had defeated Wellington's prussian allies (germans) two days eralier at Ligny, but under marshal Blucher they retreated in good order pursued by marshal Grouchy, should any of those two come to the battle they'll change the balance of force definitelly in their favour. The game was played with the Lasalle ruleset, my personal favourite.
The turns last one hour beginning at 11:30 and ending teorically at 21:30.
 The battlefield is crossed by the road Paris-Brusels with plenty of villages and farmhouses where the infantry can be entrenched
 The british infantry garrisons Papelotte
 The farm of La Haye Sainte (where the famed 95th rifles are deployed)
 And Hogoumont
 Napoleon and his Guard are deployed on the center around La Belle Alliance
 We rolled off and the brits got first turn, it's 11:30 AM and the muddy terrain makes movement difficult and stops the cannonballs from bouncing, it'll dry at 12:30 (turn 2) 
 The british cannon are quite ineffective at such long range
 The french also open up, their classical massed grand battery fire
 Folowed by their even more classic advance in attack columns
 12:30 the british horse surge forward to cover La Haye Sainte, the obvious objective of the frogs
 In Napoleon's right the french move to flank the british line
 The Imperial Guard closes on La Haye Sainte
 While Reille's troops advance en masse on the left
 13:30 flanking ongoing at Papelotte
 The Young Guard (cleverly disguised as old guard chasseurs due to lack of models) charges the farmhouse
 The french stop between the farm and Hogoumont wary of the british cavalry
 14:30 the scots greys and the rest of british heavies countercharge the Garde
 Destroying tem all! Hurrah!
 General view at 14:30
 With the french closer the british infantry in the ridge's sunken road comes out of hiding, here the guards
And here the highlanders
 Reille moves towards Hogoumont while deploying the other half of his infanty in line
 The Old Guard moves to Papelotte
 Shootout in the forests around Papelotte
 Some french cuirassiers have climbed the ridge behind Papelotte and are now amongst Picton's lines

 15:30 the guard suffers heavily from musketry while moving in front of La Haye Sainte. Columns of dust are spotted in Plancenoit's direction marking the arrival of a new army, but who are they, the french or the prussian?
 Cuirassiers and Scots fight indecisively near the farm

 Picton turns around his command to face the french horse
 The french at Hugoumont suffer from canister and musket fire
 The ones at Papelotte retreat
 The cuirassiers charge the guns on the ridge
 Reille leds his troops onwards but is driven back by Hugoumont's defenders
 Still no changes
 The french near the farm are routed by canister fire

 The cuirassiers kill the guns
 But their leader marshall Ney is wounded
 The troops coming in by Plancenoit are revealed to be prussians, putting the balance of numbers against Napoleon
 The prussian horse charge the french around Papelotte while their infatry  and guns move on
 Overview at 16:30
 With the coming of the prussians the whole british line moves onwards, the guards against Rielle
 Light dragoons led by the prince of Orange against french guns
 The defenders of Papelotte sally forward too
 With victory now out of his grasp the emperor places his mauled Old Guard in La Haye Sainte to cover the retreat
 The french are too well trained to panic and wheel about to face the prussians
 The heavy cavalry combat in the center finally ends with victory to the cuirassiers
 Surprisingly, the prussian hussars are pushed back. Even marshal Blucher, leading them from the front is bayonetted, falling to the ground where the french finish him with the butts of their muskets
 The cuirassiers move for a last charge against the incoming prussians
 17:30 british infantry and prussian cavalry now surround the heroic frenchmen

 Lord Hill leds his corps down the ridge and advances on La Belle Alliance to complete the french defeat
 The Prince of Orange charges the french guns
 The frenchies in Papelotte are unsurprisingly routed
 18:30 the prussian guns destroy Napoleon's great battery
 The cuirassiers make their last charge, against Picton's infantry
 Their big horses are too much for the exhausted brits and they rout, general Picton is killed while trying to rally them in the heat of the fight
 The prussian countercharge proves ineffective against heavy horsemen
 With almost all the french army destroyed and the remains sorrounded and depleted, we decided to call the game at 18:30. A totally expected french defeat!

 The battlefield at 18:30.
The refight went mostly like the real thing, the frenchies were unable to capture any village unlike in the actual fight around La Haye Sainte (wich they captured) but their cuirassiers were much more effective, terrorizing the british left instead of making a futile charge against infantry squares over the ridge. Picton died just like in the real battle, Blucher's death and Ney's injury came out as a surprise, as  the Prince of Orange ending in perfect health instead of being shot by Richard Sharpe ;).
The best unit of the allies has to be the british infantry who held against supperior french numbers (and even the Imperial Guard) while the french's would be their cuirassiers, who performed splendidly.
All in all a very enjoyable game (specially for my father who played it for the first time). Had I been the french I would have tried to seize La Haye Sainte and Hogoumont with pincer attacks and then held the prussians along the  Paris-Brusels road; but who knows what would have happened after contact with the enemy. It is also notewothy that the unit of the Old Guard has never fled from any refight not in Borodino not in the Berezina and not in Waterloo too! go grognards!

Stay put for the Quatre Bras refight coming up soon!