Saturday, June 15, 2024

Last Stand at Bassignana

Postie's Rejects return for an encore performance at Bassignana (see earlier battle report at Road to Bassignana).  Rather than a three-player game as in the first playing, Ray joined Richard to fill out a four-player game.  Richard and Ray took command of the Austro-Piedmontese Army while Steve and Lee headed up the Franco-Spanish Armies (Gallispans).  Commands are illustrated in the table-shot below:
Initial dispositions
For Richard's account of the action, please visit The King is Dead...and so is his dice rolling.

How did I see the battle unfold?  Please read on.

Having chronicled a handful of Bassignana battles, the ground and situation are likely familiar to regular readers.  Given that familiarity, we jump straight into the action.

The battle opens with the Spanish stepping off toward the bridge spanning the Tanaro River.  The Spanish come on in densely packed formations with General de Gages at the head.  King Emanuele III sends the Austrian defenders of Bassignana forward to contest the crossing.  On the Gallispan Left, the French advance against Chiesa de San Germano and the Piedmontese defenders on the heights.  The Piedmontese Right keeps a watchful eye on the advancing Frenchmen. 
Spanish advance toward Bassignana.
The French advance on the Piedmontese positions
 at Chiesa de San Germano.
d'Aix' Piedmontese watch from Chiesa de San Germano.
Back on the Gallispan Right, de Gages pushes his Spaniards into the Tanaro.  As cavalry emerge to the west of the bridge and infantry climb the banks to the east of the bridge, they are met by musketry.  Piedmontese light infantry pop up from the brush along the river and their fire rips through the Spanish horse.  A number of horsemen fall but the Spanish press on and into the light infantry.  The light infantry are no match for the cavalry as the horsemen charge out of the river.  The light infantry suffer heavy casualties as they retreat back toward Bassignana.

Following closely behind the Spanish cavalry are Spanish infantry.  One regiment crosses the Tanaro in column and then deploys into line under the watchful eye of the King and his cavalry perched on the hill and de la Chiesa's guns.  The Spaniards deliver a first fire into the King's horsemen before they, in turn, are raked by canister.  Bodies fall in both formations.

In an attempt to slow the attack and encourage the light infantry, King Emanuele joins the light infantry on the road while his wavering Piedmontese cavalry charge into the similarly wavering Spanish infantry.  Battered and shaken from their earlier exertions, both formations disintegrate in the melee.  

Facing odds of three to one against, the Austrians lining the Tanaro are overwhelmed by the masses of Spanish crashing into them.  First softened up from a devastating volley delivered by Spanish infantry in the woods, the Austrians face waves of Spanish infantry.  Unable to withstand this tsunami, the Austrians scatter.  
Defense at the bridge.
Spanish form a bridgehead on the north bank of the Tanaro.
Piedmontese driven back from the Tanaro.
Only the King and a few light infantry
 stand in the way to Bassignana.
Is all quiet on the western front of the battle?  No!

General Maillebois sends his two brigades on the left forward while de Montal demonstrates in the center against the defenders of the village Rivarone.  As de Grammont's two cavalry regiments splash into the Tanaro, Liguane moves his two Piedmontese dragoon regiments up to contest the crossing.  De Grammont's cavalry charge out of the river and into the Piedmontese.  Suffering heavy casualties, the French are sent back from whence they came!  

Under constant harassment from Piedmontese guns outside of Montecastelle, Senneterre sends one infantry regiment across the Tanaro to deal with these pests.  A second French regiment follows up in column.  Perhaps not seeing the Piedmontese grenadiers supporting the guns, the French in column are caught off-guard when the grenadiers charge down from the heights and smash into the column.  Not surprisingly, the French regiment scatters to the wind. 

Seeing de Grammont's cavalry streaming back through his own cavalry, Senneterre orders his two cavalry regiments forward.  In the second charge out of the river, Senneterre's cavalry are repulsed.  Again, casualties are heavy but this time, Liguane's Piedmontese are broken.  While the cavalry are locked in combat to their left, French infantry line the Tanaro and attempt to shoot the enemy out of San Germano.  They make little headway against the Piedmontese Guards barricaded in the church.   
As de Grammont brings his cavalry forward...
Liguane counters with his own cavalry.
de Grammont's cavalry are sent reeling back!
French sent to deal with d'Aix' guns.
Senneterre attacks Liguane's dragoons
Piedmontese grenadiers destroy French infantry
 as the Frenchmen cross the Tanaro!
Liguane's Brigade of Piedmontese dragoons is broken.
French try to blast the enemy from the church.
Pinning de la Chiesa's Piedmontese at Rivarone with de Montal's Frenchmen, de Gages clears the heights overlooking the main road by overrunning a battery and destroying the Piedmontese militia.  With two of his three formations scattered, de la Chiesa's Brigade is broken.  With two of his three brigades broken and no sign of Schulenburg's Austrians, the King tries to buy a little time.  Time, he does not have.  In coordinated attacks, the light infantry to which he is attached breaks.  In the confusion, the King falls.     
The Piedmontese position collapses!
With the King dead on the field and his army broken, survivors retreat to the northwest to salvage what is left of the Piedmontese Army.  Where were the Austrians?  On this day, they never made it to the battle.

The result of today's battle was not unlike the first Reject game.  That is, the Piedmontese fell to the Gallispans.  Still, the game returned another historical result with the exception that the King fell again.

Congratulations to Lee and Steve for a well-played game.  They attacked early, often, and kept the pressure up throughout.  Ray, commanding the Piedmontese Right made a remarkable stand against the attacking waves of Frenchmen.  His efforts were not enough to turn the tide of battle.  My condolences to Richard and Ray in a tough loss.  They, too, played equally well but fortune was not in Richard's court (again) on this day.

Great game fellas and thank you!     

This is the Last Stand at Bassignana, for now.  Next up?  I think we may return to battles in Ancient Sumeria.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Commentary Milestone

Last week, the blog ticked over, what for me, was a significant milestone.  That milestone?  PWJ reached 50,000 comments since September 2012.  Ed, from Ed M's Wargames Meanderings blog offered the comment that pushed the count to 50,000.  Thank you, Ed! 
Now, of course, half of those are mine but still, that is a hefty number of comments, right?  Maybe not since I have no other comparative gauge with which to measure. 

Nevertheless, I am very pleased with the level of reader interaction brought up through the commentary section of each post.  As always, comments provide encouragement, a show of support, advance the discussion with personal insights and critiques, and help in creating a bond and sense of camaraderie through these correspondences.  I am happy to receive each comment whether positive, negative, or somewhere in between.  I learn a lot from reader commentary.

One other facet of tracking comment statistics is the Top 10 Commentators widget that adorns the right sidebar.
Over the years, these Top 10 Contributors move up and down the rankings and come and go from the list.  Always a pleasure to see a new name pop up onto the list and a bit sad when a contributor falls out of the Top 10.  Still, the bulk of these Top 10 remain fairly stable with many of the same names on the list as seemingly permanent (and welcome!) fixtures.  These dedicated readers deserve a special thanks.

As one example, Stew attained #1 Ranking late last year and then slowly drifted down and out of the Top 10 only to re-engage after the first of the year to make a steady march back to currently sit at #2.  Impressive comeback, my friend!  

Anyway, I want to mark this occasion to thank everyone who has mustered the courage to leave a comment or two over these first 50,000 comments.

Thank you and keep those comments coming!  

Sunday, June 9, 2024

To Die in Piedmont

Although I paraphrase Giovanni Badone's book title of You Have To Die In Piedmont recounting the 1747 Battle of Assieta for my title, we were not fighting the Battle of Assieta.  Instead, we enjoyed another refight of Bassignana on Friday.

Four players attended Friday's remote game with Doug and Alan returning for an encore and Brian and Jennifer joining in to fill out the quartet.  While the three gentlemen have seen action at my table recently, Jennifer has not joined into a remote game for about two-and-a-half years.  I vaguely recall her last game was fighting the 1862 Battle of Brawner's Farm. 
Piedmontese defenders of Chiesa de San Germano.
For this game, Doug would switch sides from his earlier game and take command of the French while Alan would join him reprising his role as the Spanish command.  Brian and Jennifer would split the Austro-Piedmontese Army.  Player commands are illustrated in the game map below:  
Player commands and initial dispositions.
After the game concluded, Jennifer provided an almost instantaneous link to her blog post retelling the battle in a blow-by-blow account.  Amazing effort in detailing the action in real time along with relevant screenshots.  I could use a battle chronicler of this caliber!  Jennifer's detailed report can be read at, In Remotest Bassignana.   

Let's see what I recall from the game.

Holding the initiative at the start of battle, the two Spanish brigades advance toward the Tanaro River on the Gallispan Right.  On the Gallispan Left, the French step off toward the Tanaro.  The Piedmontese wait impatiently on the high ground to the north.  With the Gallispan Army in motion, artillery opens up across the battlefield.  Artillery from both armies find their mark early as men drop on both sides of the Tanaro.
Spanish advance toward the Tanaro River.
French, likewise, advance toward the Tanaro.
As de Gage's Spanish splash into the Tanaro, King Emanuele III and his command await near Bassignana.  All along the Piedmontese line, no unit has stirred from their starting positions.  Having reached the north bank of the Tanaro, de Gage leads a charge at the head of two cavalry regiments.  Their target?  The King's cavalry positioned on the heights overlooking Bassignana.  As the enemy bears down, the Austrian infantry in Bassignana form up and march south.  With the distance quickly closing, the Austrians let loose a first volley.  One of the two Spanish cavalry regiments scatter.  De Gage still leads the second horsemen forward.  The King responds.  In the countercharge, the King and his cavalry smash into de Gage and his Spanish.  Although de Gage began at favorable odds before seeing his righthand regiment blown away from accurate musketry, the King and his cavalry overpower de Gage and his horsemen.  The remaining Spanish cavalry are destroyed and de Gage falls.  The loss of their commander leaves the remainder of the brigade leaderless.  Seeing the calamity on his right, Maillebois, himself, rides over to personally take command of de Gage's Brigade.  To add insult to injury, Piedmontese light infantry pop up out of the woods and deliver some hot fire into the Spanish as they wade across the river.   

Not a good start to battle!  
De Gage leads the Spanish cavalry into battle.
The King responds.
Surprise in the woods!
De Gage falls in battle putting his command leaderless.
Maillebois rushes forward to take over de Gage's command...
and get the Spanish attack back on track.
With the Spanish attack on Bassignana seemingly stalled, The French take the fight to the enemy.  De Montal's heavy guns in the center pound the Piedmontese infantry supporting their artillery outside of Rivarone.  The French objective is to soften the enemy up before launching an attack with Senneterre's Brigade either against Montecastelle or Rivarone.
Senneterre advances with support from de Montal's guns.
De Grammont prepares an assault against San Germano.
The French leftmost brigade under de Grammont splashes into the Tanaro taking fire from the Piedmontese guard defending San Germano.  De Grammont's infantry stop midstream to return fire with musketry split between the guard on the heights and Liguane's dragoons below.  Seeing that the volleys are causing disorder among the cavalry's ranks, de Grammont leads his cavalry into the enemy dragoons.  Liguane attempts to spoil this attack by bringing up his second dragoon regiment but it refuses.  De Grammont and his cavalry plow into the wavering Piedmontese and they scatter.  With the loss of one of his two regiments, Liguane's Brigade breaks.
Hard fighting at San Germano!
De Grammont turns the Piedmontese Left!
To de Grammont's right, Senneterre crosses the Tanaro in force and presses on against Rivarone.  Packed densely in preparation for their assault, Senneterre's two French regiments are surprised when the Piedmontese Grenadiers, move out from the cover of Montecastelle and attack.  Fortunately for the French, the fire from the grenadiers causes few casualties.  The French go in!  After suffering from repeated bombardments at the hands of de Montal's guns, the wavering Piedmontese cannot withstand the shock of Senneterre's attack.  De la Chiesa's Piedmontese infantry are put to flight and his guns overrun.  De la Chiesa's Brigade breaks.  Senneterre's infantry suffer heavy casualties in carrying the position.     
French form up to attack de la Chiesa's Piedmontese.
Out of nowhere, grenadiers deliver
an opening volley into the packed French.
Still, Senneterre's attack goes in
 and carries away the Piedmontese.
With the Piedmontese Center collapsing, Liguane attempts to stabilize the right by charging into de Grammont's cavalry outside of San Germano.  The attack is bloodily repulsed and Liguane falls back to the north.  Seeing his right turned and his left hanging in the air, d'Aix orders his brigade to retire to the north.
Piedmontese Right is turned!
With Liguane's cavalry beaten,
d'Aix orders his brigade back from the river.
Seeing the French Left pushing the enemy back, Maillebois orders the Spanish back into action.  With the Piedmontese militia pinned in Rivarone, de Gage's infantry march on Bassignana.  As the Spanish advance, a firefight develops with the Austrians in front of Bassignana.  Having suffered heavy casualties in the firefight and feeling the pressure from the uneven firefight with the Spanish, the Austrians waver.  With word from Schulenburg that his Austrian infantry are beginning to cross the pontoon bridge, the King reacts in an effort to buy time.  In a desperate act, the King leads his cavalry into the Spanish foot.  The Spanish to his front are beaten but his cavalry has suffered mightily.  Before the King can extricate himself from his forward position, he is attacked by Arambou's cavalry with Arambou leading the charge.  The Piedmontese cavalry is defeated and the King is killed in the chaos.      
The King's desperate charge...
sees initial success.
The King falls fighting for his Kingdom.
With the King dead, his command eliminated, and two of his three brigades broken, the Piedmontese have lost their will to carry on.  De la Chiesa's militia lay down their arms in Rivarone while Liguane and d'Aix retire to the northwest.  Receiving word of the King's demise, Schulenburg orders his Austrian infantry to retrace their steps back over the Po to safety. 

This battle is over ending in another historical outcome.

Wow.  Another very interesting and engaging battle.  Congratulations to Doug and Alan for executing a well-considered battle plan.  While Alan and his Spanish got off to a rocky start, they ended the battle with panache. For Doug, what can I say?  He led his French straight into the enemy and forced them out of their defensive positions.

My condolences to Brian and Jennifer, the Austro-Piedmontese put up a good fight but the enemy seemed more active everywhere.  What might have been?

While this battle is in the books, one more battle of Bassignana remains on the schedule for next week.  At that time, we see the Rejects refight this battle.  The Piedmontese are hoping for a different result.

Thanks again, everyone, for another enjoyable and intriguing game.  Please visit Jennifer's battle account as she shares her side of the battle tale.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

The Road to Bassignana

Last week saw two replays of the Battle of Bassignana.  The first game, on Monday (Bassignana with the Rejects), saw the Franco-Spanish Army defeat the Austro-Piedmontese Army using a series of relentless attacks to drive the Piedmontese back from Bassignana.  The second game, on Thursday, gathered a different group of five players to try their hand at the scenario.
The defense of Chiesa de San Germano
The Austro-Piedmontese Army was commanded by Tony and Mark.  Tony and Mark played the battle with yet another group of players in an earlier game.  So, they both were seasoned veterans of what lay ahead.  The Franco-Spanish (Gallispan) Army saw Chris, Dave B. and Dave C. take command.  While the Gallispan commanders have played the rules (Fields of Honor), they have yet to tackle this scenario.  Commands were assigned as shown on the battle diagram below:
Deployments and commands
De Gage's Spanish holds the initiative at the beginning of battle so the Gallipsan Right Wing will be first to see action.  King Emanuele III's Austro-Piedmontese Army awaits the attacks he knows will come.  The King needs not wait long.

Immediately, the Spanish advance against the enemy.  Two regiments reach the bridge spanning the Tanaro River.  The King does not hesitate to see what comes.  Leading his cavalry against the Spanish at the bridge, the King attacks with support from Piedmontese light infantry popping up alongside the Tanaro.  Surprised by this action, the lead Spanish regiments waver as musketry rips through their ranks.  Before they can steady themselves, the King's cavalry splashes into the river and into the Spanish.  One regiment is destroyed as the second falls back having suffered heavily.  De Gage goes down.  The King holds the bridge.  As Arambou steadies the Spanish from this unexpected upset, Maillebois orders his French in the center and on the left into battle.  Maillebois quickly rides over to assume direct command of de Gage's, now leaderless, brigade.  This is an inauspicious start.
Spanish initial attacks repulsed!
The Spanish Wing regroups after being stopped at the bridge. 
The French Left and Center step forward toward the Tanaro.  The defenders positioned on the high ground overlooking the approach wait.  As the French move forward, the only Gallispan heavy artillery on the field targets the Piedmontese infantry outside of Rivarone.  Tasked with supporting their own light artillery, the Piedmontese take a pounding from enemy bombardment.

In an attempt to silence the Piedmontese guns on the heights, French cavalry splashes across the Tanaro to put the gunners under the blade.  Caught in an artillery crossfire from two batteries, the first body of French cavalry fails to make it across the river.  The horsemen scatter, not to be seen again.  
French infantry advance while French cavalry
move against enemy guns on the heights. 
French cavalry blasted by enemy guns!
As the French reach the Tanaro, the Piedmontese, watching patiently at their enemy's methodical approach, march down from the heights.  Lining the bank of the Tanaro, the Piedmontese brigade of d'Aix pours volleys into the French at close range.  Casualties are frightful.  The advance stalls as a firefight breaks out.  
French battle line reaches the Tanaro.
d'Aix's Brigade comes down to greet them!
Returning to the action at the bridge, Maillebois, having regained order in his lines, resumes the advance against the bridge.  The King orders his cavalry back from the bridge as the enemy approaches.  The Piedmontese light infantry are vigorously attacked as they try to hold their position on the river bank.  Overwhelmed in close combat, the light infantry scatter as the Spanish cross the Tanaro in force.  De Montal's light infantry cross over the river to harass the King's cavalry while Arambou brings up his two cavalry regiments to prepare a crossing.
The Spanish advance a second time upon the bridge.
Spanish breach the Tanaro defenses.
Can the King hold off the advancing Spanish?
As the Spanish converge upon the Piedmontese cavalry in a pincer-like maneuver, the King's cavalry suffers mightily from musketry as the noose closes.  Bringing cavalry up to the riverbank, Arambou sends his cavalry across and plunges into the wavering Piedmontese.  The King's cavalry is destroyed as the King narrowly makes his escape.  He seeks safety within the Austrian infantry moving up from Bassignana.  For now, that is the best case as he watches his plans to hold the Left collapse. 
King's cavalry is hemmed in...
and then destroyed in combat.
Back on the French Left, d'Aix pushes his Piedmontese Brigade across the Tanaro to engage the enemy.  While Liguane and one of his dragoon regiments hightails it to Bassignana, the second offers support on d'Aix's right.  As the Piedmontese come up and out of the river, fighting is intense.  One Piedmontese regiment is driven back across the river.  The Piedmontese Guards stand firm and continue pouring volleys into the French.  In front of Montecastelle, the Piedmontese Grenadiers assault one of Senneterre's regiments.  The French regiment is destroyed and Senneterre, himself, is killed.
Piedmontese cross the Tanaro.
View from the west.
Having dispatched the enemy to its front, the grenadiers turn to take on a new foe.  Caught in a firefight with the Piedmontese Guards, de Grammont's infantry is pinned when the grenadiers slam into them from the flank.  The outcome is never in doubt and the French buckle under the pressure and dissolve.  On the French Left, both Senneterre and de Grammont's attacks have stalled.  Both brigades are badly battered but not broken.  Not only that, the Piedmontese are actively attacking across the Tanaro.  
de Grammont's French under pressure.
Piedmontese control their Right flank of the battlefield.
The carnage does not stop there.  D'aix continues to push his troops forward.  Senneterre's guns are overrun by the grenadiers as de Grammont's second infantry line is engaged in a devastating firefight.  Both sides are bleeding themselves white.  The French flinch first as both Senneterre and de Grammont's Brigade reach the breaking point. 
Piedmontese form up and press on!
de Grammont's reserve dwindles
as French guns are overrun.
The situation is looking dire for the French on the Left but the Piedmontese are tiring as well.  For victory, the Gallispans must use the Spanish to plow through to Bassignana.  That is the next phase of battle!

Returning to the action along the road to Bassignana, the Spanish continue to push toward the town.  In their path is one, lone Austrian infantry regiment.  While under great pressure from the more numerous Spanish, the Austrians give ground slowly as they fall back to the high ground in front of Bassignana.  To help relieve some of this pressure, Liguane and his dragoons arrive and form up on the high ground to the west.  Immediately, Liguane and his dragoons are attacked by two regiments of Spanish cavalry.  Liguane is driven back and then destroyed.
The King leads a fighting withdrawal back...
to Bassignana.
Liguane is attacked and driven off.
Overhead view from the east.
Austrian cuirassiers are arriving over the pontoon bridge.
With word that Schulenburg's Austrian are crossing over the Po River via the pontoon bridge, the King makes a desperate stand within the defenses of Bassignana.  The Spanish assault the town in force and drive the King and the remnants of the defenders out of Bassignana.  Not thinking of his own safety, the King leads an attack back into the town.  In the chaos of close combat, the King falls.  He does not get up.  
Assault on Bassignana.
The King falls in attempting to regain Bassignana.
Word of the King's demise spreads quickly.  d'Aix and the remnants of de la Chiesa's Brigade at Rivarone break off contact with the French and retire to the northwest leaving the field to the French in front of him.  Schulenburg, upon hearing the news, retraces his path back across the Po.  The battle is over. 

Congratulations to Chris and the Two Dave's for persevering through the carnage on the Gallispan Left to turn the table on the Piedmontese at Bassignana.  My condolences to Mark and Tony for coming so very close to seeing victory.

On the French Left, d'Aix's Piedmontese went on the attack after seeing the effects of their volleys early in the battle.  These actions crippled the French Left and nearly knocked the Gallispans out of the battle before a comeback had a chance.  With two brigades broken, one more broken brigade would spell defeat to the Gallispan army.  Rather than back off for fear of collapse, Chris led the Spanish in frontal attacks with superior odds to cut apart the Piedmontese Left.  Well executed!

Now, had the King not gone down, could Schulenburg's Austrian reinforcements stem the Spanish progress and in the process break one more Gallispan brigade?  We will never know but it sure seems a possibility.  Not counting the loss of the King, the situation on the table reflected the historical battle where the Piedmontese were forced to give up the field and Bassignana. 

Great game guys and thank you once again!

Well played all!