Saturday, February 4, 2017

BatRep: Montebello 1859 - First Hour of Battle

French close in on Montebello
After having Montebello out on the gaming table for a week or two, I finally pulled figures from their storage boxes and deployed them onto the table.  To refresh memory of the scenario setup, Order of Battle, and brief historical commentary, see the earlier post, Montebello 1859 Setup.
Initial Deployments
View of battlefield from east
As seen from the Initial Deployments photo above, Urban's command holds a forward position along the main road and railroad.  Schaafgottsche's brigade is dispersed with units in Genestrello, Montebello, and Casteggio.
Genestrello
Montebello
Casteggio
Urban's second brigade under Baum is poised ready to attack one battalion of the 74th protecting the railway bridge at Cascina Nuova.  Forey, with his two brigades, is hurrying to the front with a few elements already in position guarding the stream along the line of Genestrello-Cascina Nuova.  The allied northern flank is protected by four squadrons of Sardinian light cavalry regiment Aosta. 

While skirmishing had been heard in the vicinity if Genestrello for about an hour, Stadion in Montebello along with Urban order Baum to push the French from Cascina Nuova and capture the railway bridge crossing the stream.  Urban orders the defenders in Casteggio to take to the road and come up in support. 
With orders in hand and without artillery to soften up the defenders, Baum launches an attack on Cascina Nuova at 2:30pm led by two battalions of IR40.  The French 1/74 Line coolly holds its fire until the Austrians close to short range and then unleashes two quick volleys.  Taking moderate casualties, the fire from the 74th stops Baum's attack in its tracks.  Both battalions of IR40 are disrupted.  The 2/3rd Jaegers, in front of Genestrello, target 2/84th Line inflicting enough casualties to disrupt the battalion.  Being nearby, Beuret attempts to rally the 84th to no avail.  To the north of Genestrello, Hesse's column begins to challenge the Sardinian light cavalry screen.  In an attempt to break through the cavalry screen, the 3rd squadron of the 12th Hussars charges one of the squadrons of the Aosta Regiment.  As it closes and the Sardinian cavalry responds, the 3/12 Hussars loses its nerve and breaks towards the rear in rout. 
Beuret attacks Genestrello
Reacting to the aggressive Austrian activity, Forey sets his division into action as Beuret advances on the Austrian held village of Genestrello.  2/84 rallies as 1/84 moves up in support and forces the third battalion of IR39 back from the stream north of Genestrello, disrupted.  Beuret brings up his 4kg RML battery and unlimbers near the bridge along the main road.  The 1/3 Jaegers positioned in front of Genestrello is the battery's immediate target.  Not able to hold fast against bombardment, the jaegers take casualties, are disrupted, and seek safety behind the lee side of Genestrello.  As the jaegers are being driven back in front of Genestrello, the 17th Chasseurs a Pied and three squadrons of Novarra light cavalry work their way around the south side of Genestrello.
Austrians abandon Genestrello
As the 17th comes up on the Genestrello defenders from above, it engages both 3/IR59 and 2/3rd Jaegers.  Both Austrian formations take casualties and are driven back from Genestrello.  Adding into the collapse of the Austrian forward Genestrello position, the 2/84 and Beuret's battery pour fire into the 1/3 Jaeger and 3/IR39.  Both formations retreat out of Genestrello, disrupted.  Near Cascina Nuova, the 1/74th pushes IR40 back even farther from the crucial railway bridge.
French attacks and Austrian retreats
With Genestrello separating the retiring Austrians from the rapidly oncoming French, the 3rd Jaegers and 3/IR59 shake off their disruption.  Its combat effectiveness teetering on the brink, 3/IR39 falls back in search of safety while 1/IR40 moves out of Montebello to cover IR39's retreat.  Schaafgottsche's Casteggio garrison continues its repositioning towards Montebello.
Urban's fighting withdrawal to Montebello
That concludes the first hour of the battle.  The Austrians have lost Cascina Nuova and Genestrello by 3:30pm.  Historically, both of these outposts fell around the same time.  The difference in this replay is that Baum, suffering from a sharp repulse against Cascina Nuova, is in much worse shape than his historical counterpart.  Falling back towards Montebello as he did historically, the combat effectiveness of his less motivated troops puts his command in grave danger.  Both have an effectiveness down to two which makes for a brittle command.  

A good portion of Schaffgotsche's command is in trouble too.  Taking heavy casualties from the French assaults on Genestrello, support from the Casteggio garrison will be needed soon to shore up the defenses at Montebello and allow Schaffgottsche's troops a bit of time to recover.  Historically, Gaal's brigade began reinforcing Montebello by about 3pm.  That will not be the situation this time.  Gaal is still at least an hour's march from Montebello.  He needed to move out with more alacrity but not to be this time.

Hesse on the northern portion of the battlefield has been delayed by the Sardinian cavalry just as witnessed historically. Spillberger's column approaches the railway bridge spanning the Coppa River but he, too, is too distant to offer immediate assistance.

The French, for their part, moved quickly and thwarted the attack on Cascina Nuova and overpowered the Genestrello defenders without suffering many casualties.  French artillery and the well-trained chasseurs a pied made a defense of Genestrello a tough proposition for Urban.
3:30pm positions looking from Voghera
Many of the Austrian infantry are of poorer quality than their French counterparts and once the starch was knocked out of the tunics, fighting toe-to-toe would be a losing battle.  The larger Austrian battalions never made their superiority in numbers felt in this first hour of fighting.  The Austrians also suffer from a disadvantage in command quality.  In this first hour, Austrian commanders were several times outplayed by their French adversaries.  The flexibility offered by good or excellent French officers proved powerful when compared to the poor or average Austrian command structure.

As for the arrival of French reinforcements, perhaps, some arrived on the battlefield a little earlier than expected.  Still, the game timeline follows the historical battle chronology quite closely.

With the start of the 3:30pm turn, Stadion grabs hold of the initiative.  Perhaps he can sort out his far flung commands and give them a chance to prepare for the next wave of expected French assaults?  Having much of Schaafgottsche's command reeling back from Genestrello followed closely on its heels by the victorious French, will Urban be able to prepare a solid defense of Montebello in time?  The answer to these questions will be answered in the next installment of the battle.  

30 comments:

  1. Great report Jonathan. I have considerable interest in this conflict, so I will follow this with interest.

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    1. Thank you, Mark! Happy to have you on board following the replay.

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  2. Very good. Unless your Austrian, of course.

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    1. True but the Austrian mission was a recon in force. They have found the enemy, no doubt!

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  3. It's easy to see why the French became complacent, French élan taking all before them until we get to 1871!
    Great looking figures and scenery.
    Best Iain

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    1. Thank, Iain! The French have both a leadership and effectiveness advantage in this one. Although at a numerical advantage, the Austrians have great difficulty coordinating their far-flung columns into concerted action.

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  4. Sounds like a great game, beautiful figures and terrain!

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  5. Interesting to see that line between history being followed in some parts of the battlefield and the early seeds of divergence elsewhere.

    We all have great gaming moments that stay in our minds and affections for years afterwards, I'm sure this is going to be one of those for you.

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    1. Thus far, the game is mirroring history in a reasonable fashion. One thing of note is that the historical outcome had a sample size of one. Few repeated trials in history.

      One of my goals of wargaming is to gain insight into the battles and decisions made during the conflict. If the rules, scenario, and time/space relationships can provide insight as well as offer a reasonable outcome then the tools at hand have done their job. As noted above, the caveat to always remember is that the historical outcome was only ONE of MANY plausible outcomes. Our games cannot guarantee THE historical outcome.

      Documenting games in BatReps is one method to reliving these exploits for years to come. It is always fun to read these old BatReps and recall those days on the battlefield with nostalgia.

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  6. Great looking game and report Jonathan!

    Christopher

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  7. Spectacular!

    Kind regards, Chris.

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    1. Chris! Thanks for stopping in and especially for leaving a comment!

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  8. Awesome! It's great to see the models on the table after all of your hard work. The different scale of the models and the terrain almost gives it a video game effect. I like it. This is great!

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    1. Very much appreciated, Aaron! Glad you are enjoying the after action recap.

      My philosophy on gaming and terrain (really buildings and BUAs) scale is that I want the building to have a footprint reasonably related to the ground and figure scale. For battalion-sized BMUs, I find 6mm buildings work well with 15mm figures. To my eye, a cluster of smaller scale buildings are more aesthetic than one 15mm building in representing a town or village.

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    1. Thanks, Ian! Appreciate you dropping in for a visit and comment!

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  10. Great game and narrative thus far, Jon! I look forward to Part 2!

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    1. Very kind of you, Peter!

      There was a topic on TMP awhile back discussing what makes an enjoyable BatRep. As expected, responses were all over the board and many having never written one seemed the most adamant. I find I enjoy the prose narrative approach and I guess I will stick with it. BatReps showing game mechanisms have their place especially when reviewing rules such as your wonderfully detailed piece on ECW TtS. The philosophy of writing BatReps might make for an interesting discussion.

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    1. Thanks, Fran! Great to see you see you back!

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  12. Those units and boards look great!

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  13. That is a REALLY impressive table, it´s so nice to see your figs in action!! Cheers!

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    1. Thanks! It is good to get the figures out onto the gaming table.

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