Saturday, April 13, 2013

Battle of San Martino 1859 BatRep 0800 - 1000

Finally found time to return to the game table in pursuit of a refight of San Martino during the Franco-Austrian War of 1859.  The scene for the scenario was set in an earlier post showing initial dispositions.  Mollard has only a portion of his recon column holding the heights with reinforcements still off in the distance.  Benedek has four brigades deployed and ready to wrest control of the high ground from Mollard before additional Sardinian reinforcements can arrive.

Historically, neither party expected contact with the other.  Since the whereabouts of the Sardinian Army is still unknown, Benedek must protect his right flank and line of communication from possible threat.  Given that, Watervliet's brigade remains protecting the right and line of communications back through Pozzolengo and towards the Mincio.

To reduce confusion, Austrian infantry regiments are denoted with a 'IR' prefix with battalion distinction as a suffix (i.e. IR59/1 is Austrian infantry regiment 59, 1st battalion).  Sardinian infantry regiments and battalions have no prefix (i.e. 8/1 is Sardinian infantry regiment 8, 1st battalion).  On to the opening phase of the replay.

0800 Mollard falls back on San Martino with the 10th Bersaglieri (10 Bers) shifting to cover the walled farm, Contracania.  The 8th Bersaglieri (8 Bers) splits with one half of the battalion moving to take up positions around Ortaglia while the other half fans out into the vineyard opposite the Pozzolengo road. 

Lang activates Philipovic who advances his brigade up to the crossroads near Ponticello.  Benedek joins Philipovic to oversee the deployment of the brigade.  Reichlin with two of his four 4th battalions takes San Donmino.  Reichlin's other two 4th battalions are back in Pozzolengo awaiting orders.
Dispositions @0830
0830 Mollard maintains his positions but sends a messenger back to hurry and direct the arrival of the second group from his reconnaissance column.

Lang orders Lippert to contest the heights and Lippert swings his brigade into action stopping just within medium rifled musket range for the Austrian weapons but outside the range of the Sardinians' smoothbore muskets.  Lippert's thought is to soften up the defenders with musketry before attacking while allowing the jagers to fully cover the left.  9th Jagers swing onto the left, opposite Contracania.  Philipovic advances astride the road bearing down on Ortaglia and the Sardinians now deployed across the road.  Reichlin advances his two battalions to the southwest corner of San Martino heights with his front covered by Lippert's 9th Jager.
Austrians advance on San Martino
With two large Austrian battalions bearing down, both the 8/2 Bers and 11/1 Line open fire at long range.  Neither volley stops the determined Austrians from closing.  In the following short clash, the lead Austrian battalion (IR17/1) takes casualties but coolly ignores them.  The Sardinian 11/1 Line takes casualties as well.  Outnumbered, the 11/1 and 8 Bers withdraw from combat.
Attack of IR17
0900 Reichlin's two battalions (IR18/4 and IR19/4) assault the 10 Bers that is holding the ground south of Contracania.  Not wishing to confront the Austrian line battalions in open ground, the 10/1 Bers evades back to the safety of the Contracania farm while 10/2 Bers fires at the approaching Austrians before seeking shelter within the same complex.
10 Bersaglieri seek cover in Contracania
For the Sardinians, 7/1 and 8/1 battalions fall back from the crest taking a position that straddles the road between Contacania and Ortaglia.  Mollard gets word from a messenger that the elements of his division (Cuneo BDE) are on the approach to San Martino.
Sardinians withdraw from heights
Wanting to continue pressuring Mollard, Lippert attacks with four battalions towards the 7/1 and 8/1 who only minutes before had fallen back between the two farms.  As the Austrians clear the crest, the Sardinian line erupts in a wall of musketry.  Shocked by the volume of close-range fire, IR59 is stopped before contacting the Sardinians.
IR59 attacks
0930 Despite casualties, Lippert needs IR59 to press on.  Attaching to IR59/3, Lippert gets the assault moving again towards the Sardinians with IR59/2 in support.  8/1 fires into the attacking IR59/3 causing more casualties but this time IR59/3 closes with the Sardinians.  In the close combat, IR59/3 suffers more casualties but 8/1 takes 50% casualties and retires about 1/2 mile to the north.

Going in alongside  on the right of IR59/3 is IR59/1 with the grenadiers in support.  The target of the Austrian assault, 7/1 fires two volleys into the whitecoats.  IR59/1 takes more casualties but continues on.  In the ensuing close combat both combatants suffer casualties.
IR59 Attacks!
IR59/1, weakened from much fire, breaks and routs back towards Pozzolengo about 3/4 of a mile.  The grenadier battalion from IR59 is disordered as IR59/1 passes through it as is IR59/2.  IR9/4 from Reichlin is also disordered as IR59/1 routs passed.

At Ortaglia, the 5th Kaiser Jager (5KJ) battalion attempts to push 8/1 Bers from the farm.  Hitting the farm from the both east and south, 5/1 KJ attacks first from the east.  Both take casualties and morale holds but the 8/1 Bers opts to withdraw from the farm as Austrians will almost certainly isolate the farm in little time.  8/1 Bers falls back to the relative safety of San Martino.

Mollard rushes to join 8/1 in the vineyard to rally the weakened battalion.  With Mollard's inspiration, 8/1 rallies.  7/1, now the only Sardinian infantry on the heights apart from the 10 Bers sheltered in Contracania, withdraws back down the slope to the Roccolo farm.  Cuneo Brigade reaches the battlefield sending the 7th Regiment up the lower slopes to the east of Contracania.  The guns and 8th Regiment deploy around Roccolo farm.
Dispositions @1000 overview
Dispositions @1000 close
By 1000, the Austrians hold much of the high ground but the cost has been high.  Mollard's advance recon force first delayed and then stopped the Austrian assault atop the heights.  With IR59 weakened, disordered, and one battalion streaming to the rear, a quick attack by Cuneo may be sufficient to push Lippert off the heights.

For the Austrians, improving the situation of IR59 is crucial to holding the high ground.  Either Reichlin, Philipovic or both need to apply pressure to the Sardinian flanks to relieve pressure on their center.  Will Benedek release Watervliet from his overwatch role?  Can Cuneo BDE counterattack before the Austrians recover? 

How would you react if you were Mollard or Benedek? 


  1. This is fascinating, Jonathan! I like the fog of war and forces coming up on the battlefield. The situation seems fluid for both sides.

    Mollard has fresh forces coming up on the center. If he can hit the Austrians on the hill, he might be able to split their line. I'm not sure how effective artillery is but I'd be keen to get it deployed and pounding the center.

    1. Good insights, commander!

      Only the Austrians began with any artillery on the field. With Benedek's orders to take the heights before the Sardinians could be reinforced, no time was available to bring up the Austrian guns and prepare the assault.

      If Lippert activates before Mollard then the IR59 will have a chance to recover, consolidate its hold on the heights, and deploy the guns. If Mollard can get Cuneo moving first then the Sardinians have a very good chance of retaking the high ground.

      As I have heard recited in many games, "this turn is an important one in which to get the initiative."

      How many times have you heard exactly those comments?

      Glad you're enjoying the fight.

    2. I wish I lived within reasonable driving distance. I know almost nothing about this era but the challenge for both players in this matchup is a good one.

      With all the time you've spend painting and prepping, there is nothing quite like the feeling of getting the fellows out on the tabletop! I look forward to your next installment.


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