Friday, June 9, 2017

Battle of Montebello, 1800 - BatRep

French close in on Casteggio
Following the long series on the 1859 Battle of Montebello, the earlier, 1800 battle was considered for one of the recent and semi-regular Friday Night at the Fights sessions.  With Friday evening 19 May free, Jake showed up to command Lannes and the French in this often overlooked lead-up to Marengo.  Lannes was rewarded by his actions at Montebello by being bestowed the title of 1st Duc de Montebello by the Great One, himself.
Montebello Battlefield
As a map refresher, the 1800 battlefield covers the rightmost two-thirds of the twelve foot game table while the 1859 battlefield covered the left two-thirds of the gaming table.  More details on the setup and scenario can be found at Battle of Montebello, 1800 Setup.  In general, both combatants (Austrians under Ott and French under Lannes) are attacking towards their supply base with the Austrians attacking east and the French attacking west.
O'Reilly's Advanced Guard at Rivalta
To begin the battle, O'Reilly deployed around the village of Rivalta astride the main road from Alessandria.  His Advanced Guard column garrisoned Rivalta to the east of Casteggio far in advance of supports.  With his supports back in Montebello, it may take time before help can arrive if attacked vigorously.
O'Reilly at Rivalta
O'Reilly would not wait long for the French plan to materialize.  Attack vigorously is what Lannes planned to do.  Watrin, leading his division, advanced upon O'Reilly in Rivalta, shook out into battle line and prepared to assault the village.
Watrin advancing on Rivalta
A closer look at French advancing battalions
Not waiting for Lannes and cavalry support, Watrin boldly marched towards the well-defended village, Rivalta.  Disregarding the Austrian cavalry threat, the first French battalions on line dismissed forming square in the face of such danger.  Seeing an opportunity, the Austrian 8th Hussars charged sending one of the French battalions scurrying towards the rear.  A second French battalion failed to hold up to a combination of musketry and cannon fire and retreated as well. 
French repulsed!
Having two French battalions fall out of battle line so quickly gave Watrin great concern.  Could the battle be decided so quickly?  Reports of Vogelsang's Austrian column reaching Casteggio also caused concern.  Nevertheless, with eight battalions of foot and no guns or cavalry, Watrin pressed on.  
Birds eye view of battlefield
 showing Vogelsang reaching Casteggio.
Rivalta in distance.
Lannes reached the battlefield around noon in time to see Watrin's first attack on Rivalta repulsed.  Wasting little time, Lannes sent the 12th Hussars on a flanking maneuver to threaten O'Reilly's line of communication and thwart the Austrian cavalry.
French 12th Hussars swing wide right to hit Austrian cavalry
To counter the Austrian cavalry threat to Watrin's infantry, the 12th Hussars swung around Watrin's Division and launched a series of charges into the Austrian cavalry support.  Having pushed the Austrian cavalry back into the foothills, Watrin's infantry were free to attempt an encirclement of Rivalta.
French attempt encirclement of Rivalta
Driving off the Austrian cavalry, Watrin unleashed his legere to outflank O'Reilly.  Pushing the Grenz out of Rivalta, Watrin's infantry began tightening the noose around O'Reilly's units still deployed on the hill to the south of Rivalta.  Not wanting to become encircled and trapped, O'Reilly abandoned Rivalta and began an orderly withdrawal.
Elements of O'Reilly retreat up the small valley
Austrian light infantry fought a rear guard action while the bulk of O'Reilly's Advanced Guard attempted to make good its escape.  Unfortunately for O'Reilly, the French were not on the same time schedule.  Instead of an orderly and leisurely pursuit, French legere set off in hot pursuit to catch the Austrians during their retrograde movement.  Catch them they did!  Encouraged to flee up the side valley, the Legere forced the Grenz into rout.
French Legere hot on the tail of Austrian Grenz
As the defense of Rivalta collapsed, O'Reilly attempted a second line of defense between Casteggio and the stronghold of Casa il Giardino.  Vogelsang's reinforcements approached Casteggio from Montebello. 
French pursue fleeing Austrians from Rivalta
In a tough fight, the 6th Legere shoved the Mariassy Jagers out of Casa il Giardino but not without great cost.  Austrian reinforcement began trickling into Casteggio as battalions crossed the Coppa River and began working their way through the foothills above Casteggio.
French prepares an attack
Before a solid defense of Casteggio could be set, the French 12th Hussars strike on a number of fronts.  With swords flailing, the French hussars drove the guns and infantry from the streets of Casteggio.  As the Austrians are driven up into the foothills above town, their withdrawal collided with incoming reinforcements.  Chaos reigned as formations became intermixed.
French elan drive Austrians from Casteggio
Although Lannes is closing in on Casteggio, it is but a temporary salient for the Austrian defenders.  Seeing the difficulty, Ott ordered a withdrawal to the west, back beyond the Coppa.  With Austrian reinforcements from Vogelsang lining the banks of the Coppa River and Schellenberg's column not far behind, Lannes decided that he can not force a crossing of the Coppa.
Situation about 4pm
With Lannes on the verge of capturing Casteggio, a major Austrian victory is not possible.  While Ott still held Montebello, the casualty disparity suffered by the Austrians brought the French to a Minor Victory.  Well done, Jake!  
Austria will not yield the Coppa easily
The battle began with some initial Austrian successes against Watrin's Division.  Jake considered throwing in the towel after Watrin was roughly handled by Austrian cavalry in the opening stages of battle.  His fortunes reversed quickly when Lannes reached the battlefield and pushed the 12th Hussars into action.  Once Lannes gained Rivalta, Ott was kept off balance for the remainder of the contest.  Pressure from the French was unrelenting and O'Reilly's command found itself disorganized for much of the battle.

A few mistakes were made during play but nothing that cannot be corrected before the next attempt.  One point is that we both forgot the newly implemented EZOC.  Enforcing EZOC might have prevented the French cavalry from wreaking such havoc upon the hapless Hapsburgs.

Will another attempt at Montebello be undertaken or has this battlefield occupied the gaming table for long enough?  Having been out on the gaming table for all of 2017, perhaps, it is time to clear it away and consider other genres?  I grow a little fatigued of seeing the same layout on the game table for six months straight.  A number of projects have been pulling for my attention.  Something in 28mm perhaps?  Something using Impetvs?  That sounds good to me.

27 comments:

  1. What a great looking Nap game Jonathan...happy to see that Lannes saved the day!

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    1. Thank you, Phil! I can understand you alignment towards Lannes but I was commanding the Austrians and he was no help to me!

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  2. Superb narrative. In the opening moves, the two French battalions that left themselves open to the Austrian Hussars .... was that deliberate or was there a blunder / Command and Control type rule at play there?

    Impetvs sounds good.

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    1. Norm, glad you enjoyed the retelling of the battle.

      As for the French battalions and their aversion towards square, thoughts of the impotence of cavalry against infantry in the 1859 battles carried over to the 1800 period. Unfortunately, cavalry were more effective against foot in the Napoleonic Wars than in the latter period. The French commander learned that lesson the hard way and very quickly!

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  3. Another fine looking game Jonathan, but admit I would be keen on seeing some Impetus being played.

    Christopher

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    1. Thank you, Christopher! I would be keen on Impetvs too!

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  4. As above, nice looking game and great AAR!

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    1. Thank you, William! Did you attend Enfilade! this year?

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    2. No, I didn't make it this year.

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  5. Thank You for a great report Jonathan!

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  6. Montebello has seen its fair share of great battles this year, Jonathan. The citizens must be getting tired of abandoning the villages so much! If you move on some Great Italian Wars action would be nice to see.

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    1. Very true, Nathan. The ground around Montebello has been well trodden this year. Perhaps time to move on to greener pastures.

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  7. Excellent report, and really top notch presentation in the table and figures--the 15mm scale and your mounting system convey the "battle level" very well. I very much like the look of the terrain: very clean and functional, yet evocative. It really enhances the figures. The lure of French Rev is strong, and you're not helping... :)

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    1. Ed, you are very kind and your support and encouragement is most welcome!

      The French Rev. period is an interesting one. I am especially drawn towards the campaigns in Northern Italy and Switzerland.

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  8. Lovely looking game and yes you must have had your fill of this battlefield by now! Maybe stay in Italy, say early 16th century?!
    Best Iain

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    1. Thank you, Iain. Yes, I see that layout in my sleep. Put away today so on to something new, now.

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  9. Great looking game Jonathan!

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  10. Great looking game and a nice report. I must confess to being a Lannes backer for this one. Sorry! :-)

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    1. Much appreciated, Peter! Backing a winning horse is a smart move! Maybe I will have better success next time?

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  11. Fab AAR it all looks stunning well done!

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  12. Great looking game with real "scale" 😀

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