Thursday, January 31, 2013

Battle of San Martino - The Game

The Battle of San Martino comprised the northern portion of the larger Battle of Solferino on 24JUN1859 fought simultaneously to the south.

The battle began as the Sardinians sent out a number of reconnaissance forces to probe southeast from Lonato and Rivoltella towards Pozzolengo.  Rather than fielding an integrated advance guard to act as the recon force, the Sardinians drew off battalions and squadrons from each division and sent them on their way.  

One of the largest of these recon contingents was drawn from Mollard's 3rd Division.  Not expecting Austrian resistance on the west bank of the Mincio River, Mollard was surprised to run into Austrian forces at Ponticello.  What was initially thought to be only Austrian screening elements turned out to be Benedek's VIII Corps centered on Pozzolengo.  Benedek, likewise, was surprised to discover the Sardinians bearing down on his corps in force.  

From Google Earth, the battlefield today is dominated by agriculture with vineyards that would have hampered artillery and cavalry movements during the time of the battle.  Mollard advanced south of present day A4 along SP13 towards Roccolo and Orteglia farms with an objective of seizing Pozzolengo.  
Photos of the actual battlefield can be seen in my earlier posting on this subject.  

Mollard realized his miscalculation and fell back to the heights around San Martino.  While Sardinian columns continued streaming towards Mollard's positions at San Martino, Mollard prepared for a defensive action until sufficient force could be gathered to push Benedek back onto the Mincio.  Not waiting for the Sardinian storm to gather over San Martino, Benedek counterattacked to prevent the Sardinians from compromising the Austrian line of communications over the Mincio.

The scenario picks up where my narrative ends.  That is, elements of Mollard's recon column hold the San Martino heights while reinforcements continue their march to San Martino.  Benedek has several brigades from two divisions poised to attack the heights.  The Sardinian objective is to cut the Austrian line of communication across the Mincio by taking  Pozzolengo.  Since Benedek's force anchors the far right of the Austrian army and protects the army's line of communication, the Austrian VIII Corps is tasked with holding the Pozzolengo position until ordered otherwise.  Falling back behind the Mincio too early would allow the Sardinians to reinforce the French at Solferino.  
Positions looking from SE
Initial Deployments from above Pozzolengo

Mollard's position on San Martino Heights
My plan is to game this scenario as time permits using my own rules.  Since this will be the rules' first trial, I'll play slowly and take notes on what works and what does not.  Perhaps, I'll make changes as the scenario plays out.  Both combatants have limited cavalry so the mounted arm likely won't see much more than a scouting role unless they can catch some vulnerable battalions in the open.


  1. I love the work you've done in prepping for your test run and recreating the battlefield. It's a visual treat to see all your hard work pay out like this!

    1. Glad you enjoy it. Nothing can replace actually being on the ground to get a sense of time vs space on the battlefield. Decisions made during the battle are sometimes only revealed from a battlefield visit.

      On the ground, the hill at San Martino dominates the surrounding agricultural land. On maps, it doesn't always appear as such.

      Stay tuned to see how Mollard fares in the initial clash.

  2. Very nice work, the pictures are really nice comparing to the photo!

    1. Appreciate your encouragement, Phil! Including both battlefield perspectives helps me gain a bit of insight into the tactical problems the commanders may have faced.

  3. I wonder whether Norm Smith's rules would work for this battle...

    1. I don’t see why they could not be used. San Martino might be a battle larger than what TFON could comfortably handle but should lead be doable.


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