Friday, January 20, 2017

Battle of Montebello 1859 - Setup

After having put out the Montebello layout on the gaming table during the Christmas holiday, I finally have some time to begin playtesting the 1859 battle in 15mm.  As seen in the photo of the game table above, the battleground covers the entire 12 foot by 6 foot table.  Much of the area to the east of Casteggio was included so that the 1800 battle could be fought on the same layout.  
From Voghera looking east
The map stretches from beyond Genestrello in the west to far beyond Santa Guiletta in the east.
From Stradella looking west
Using a number of sources, I put together the following brief timeline for the historical battle to provide a sense of the flow of battle.

The French, under Forey, are positioned in Voghera and covered by ten squadrons of Sardinian cavalry under Sonnaz. Three squadrons hold the line of the Coppa River between Verreto and Casteggio.  One squadron holds the high ground at Codevilla. Four squadrons at Pizzale and Calcababbio watch the Staffola River and bridge at Oriolo.  The remaining two squadrons remain at Voghera with Forey.
Movements of French (blue) and Austrians (white)
The Austrian plan was to develop a reconnaissance in force to bring out the French and determine their strength and intentions.  To meet this end, Stadion advances in three columns along the Stradella-Voghera road.  The left column, under Urban, marches by the main road Broni-Casteggio with two battalions from Boer's brigade.  Paumgarten's two brigades (with Stadion attached) in the center column march from Barbianello-Casatisma.  The right column, under Hesse, marches on Oriolo by way of Cacababbio.  Spillberger's detached column marches on Montebello from the north.

Urban at Santa Guiletta is ordered to capture Casteggio.  Gaal's brigade to support if needed.  Casteggio is easily taken and attention turns towards taking Montebello.  If possible, Urban is to capture Genestrello and hold it until the right and center columns can move on Voghera.

Forey, in Voghera, learns of Stadion's advance.  Half a battery and two battalions of the 74th are ordered to the bridge crossing the Fossagazzo where two battalions of the 84th are already on line.  One battalion of the 74th moves towards Cascina Nuova with half battery while the other battalion of the 74th supports the 84th along the main road.  Sardinian squadrons of Novarra and Monferrato move out in support.

For the Austrians, Gaal leaves Casatisma to march on Montebello with one column using the main road; the other using the Coppa Valley as an axis of advance.  Bils' brigade remains in Robecco.  Having taken Montebello, Urban deploys his guns on the high ground and begins digging in.
Montebello looking from the north
Stadion and Urban in Montebello discuss the possibility of pushing on to take Genestrello and hold until the other two columns can catch up.  Urban sends one brigade back to Casteggio to prepare defenses while the other brigade is posted between Genestrello and Torraza Costa.  Gaal's brigade is to hold the rail bridge north of Montebello and outpost the line of the Coppa covering Casteggio.  Bils to remain in Casatisma.

Austrian orders in place when heavy fighting in direction of Genestrello.  Baum advances by railway driving one battalion of the 74th out of Cascina Nuova.  74th counterattacks with support from Blanchard's brigade.  Forey has three battalions at Cascina Nuova opposing two battalions of Baum's brigade.  Six French battalions at Genestrello oppose three battalions from Schaffgotsche's brigade.  Hesse' Austrian wing is held in check by Sardinian light cavalry regiment Aosta augmented by a couple of battalions.

Austrians lose Genestrello forcing Baum to fall back.  Reinforced by three battalions from Baum, Schaffgotsche barricades Montebello.

4:00pm - 5:00pm.
Forey attacks Montebello with ten battalions.  Blanchard attacks from below while Beuret attacks from the right.  Even though Montebello's church and cemetery are fortified, the French gain ground in repeated attacks.
Casteggio and Coppa River looking from north
Austrians abandon Montebello, beaten.  Exhausted, Forey does not pursue.

While Forey used his forces at hand effectively, Stadion failed to bring his superiority in numbers to bear.  Forey gained local superiority first at Genestrello and then at Montebello to drive the Austrians back across the Coppa River.

Montebello 1859 Order of Battle
Each box on the OB represents either one battalion, one squadron, one battery, or one-half battalion of light infantry.
My plan is to set up the forces and fight it out this weekend using my own rules.  For the first trial, the game will start about 2:30pm with the Austrians already in control of Genestrello and the French ready to attack.  Follow up replays may start at 11:00 allowing both sides much more flexibility.  It has been a couple of years since the 1859 collection has been out on the table and the rules have had no workout since the Battle of San Martino at that time.  If all goes well, I may reset and give Neil Thomas' Wargaming 19th Century Europe a try. 

Well, that is the plan anyway.  Will history repeat itself?


  1. Fabulous - a project about to give fruit. Enjoy your weekend, looking forward to your AAR.

    1. Yes, the Montebello project is about to bear fruit. Units are in place for both the 1859 and 1800 versions. First up is 1859. This one may keep me entertained for awhile. We will see if the rules can handle the situation and the peculiarities of this battle.

  2. That's a great looking table, so it should look brilliant when populated with armies of miniature soldiers.

    Reading the timeline also gave me a few ideas for tactics in one of my upcoming battles in a play by mail campaign.

    1. Thank you, Roy! I think there will be just enough troops on the gaming table but not too many. Should be room for maneuver if needed.

      I am interested in what you gleaned to help you in your upcoming battles.

    2. Game background: I'm playing the Rozwi (African tribal nation based in what is now Zimbabwe). The year is 1701 (the game started in the game year 1700) and I've reorganised and trained up my army along the lines of how Shaka did with the Zulus a century later. Everything is going well for my Rozwi nation; farming, gold 'mining', cattle herding, domestic trades, I've began to introduce tobacco crops as a commercial trade investment, after being a friendly neighbour to the Portuguese in their East Africa territory and signing a three-year non-aggression treaty with the Portuguese player, Rozwi is on good terms with all other countries in their vicinity and have made inroads with the Omanis (through their Zanzibar base) and are hoping to get a ship building mission sent to Inhambane to teach us the method of small, coastal boat construction to help in our fishing trade.

      However, Rozwi's capital is based at Khami (near to modern-day Bulawayo) and the proximity to the Kalahari Desert and the general climate means that drought is a real possibility. So I'm hoping to 'land-grab' through military action, my main field army is currently marching through modern-day Hwange Park on its way towards the waterfalls on the Zambezi River that will become known as Victoria Falls. After rest and reorganisation the army will then split into two or three 'columns' cross over into our neighbours lands, ignoring civilians for now but crushing any localised resistance as one column follows the Zambezi and the other moves towards the Okavango Delta lands. Once the invaded nation is able to field its own army, then my forces will combine and meet it in battle - which I'm confident of crushing, with my 'Zulu' tactics - and then I'll force them to cede the lands between the Zambezi River and the Okavango Delta to Rozwi, so I can then attempt to tap into the water sources and re-route through primitive irrigation canals, possibly creating man-made lakes to act as reservoirs. Any 'booty' being added to the Rozwi treasury, whether I take for slaves any of the conquered people I haven't decided upon - I could always do with people who I can resettle in my own lands, as I'm looking at building up larger kraal settlements, and Portugal is wanting slaves to work on their plantation and will pay for labour.

      But its the tactical decisions that need to be considered whilst in enemy territory, and awaiting their army to defend their lands that I need to consider. I've put in place plenty of spies to give me local, geographical and social information and offer warning as to where the enemy will be marching. But there will, no-doubt, be a period of several months of waiting, as the enemy lands are vast and the army may be organised at its capital which is far to the West and will need to be marched into the African centre to meet my threat. I would like to meet it in a large engagement, where I have control over all my army, but will their be the chance to offer my subordinate leaders to show their own worth and attack piece-meal the enemies marching columns? But dare I trust them to the task, and then if I don't will that cause animosity? Anyway, I'm looking at and considering various strategies of tactics to offer me possible advantage in this war of conquest, but until I actually invade and see what the Play-By-Mail's Games Master does (when he controls the non-player-controlled enemy nation) its only guess work and being, hopefully, prepared.

      The game is Agema Publication's The Glory of Kings - a Play-by-Mail or Play-By-Email game of diplomacy, war, nation building, trade and role-playing set in the first decades of the 1700s.

    3. Roy! Thank you so much for your very detailed reply! I had no idea such games existed. The level of detail and decision points must approach overwhelming. Best of luck in your continued PBeM game!

    4. No problem.

      The game can be very overwhelming. In truth there is so much that can be done or pursued, players need to choose a plan and than stick to it otherwise nothing will see completion.

      I've played European powers in the past and, with the technologies they have available, the social aspect of being in a highly (player) populated area such as Europe / Middle East / India - China, and the (historical) religious and political pressures that arise, such game positions become very intense, fast. So I chose an African tribe, with arguably the least level of technological advancement and the least amount of (other player) contact in the game. The freedom of being a 'solo' player in the wider game environment is quite liberating.

  3. Fantastic looking table and interesting time line.
    Best Iain

  4. Good looking table. Interesting mix of hex and non-hex. I look forward to reading the report and seeing what you think of the NT rules. I really liked them for my Austrian-Prussian War games, even if it is hard to win with the Austrians.

    1. Thanks, Dale! Is "interesting" good, bad, or indifferent? NT's 19C rules may get a work out after I have get a few games of my own effort in the books.

  5. This looks to be an interesting engagement. Planning on keeping it up until the end of February?

    1. At the rate I change table layouts, having Montebello still on the gaming table at the end of FEB is almost guaranteed. If I tire of the 1859 scenario, we could move on to the 1800 scenario. My guess is that I will still be fiddling with the 1859 scenario in a month.

  6. Your battlefield is incredible. Love the period. Looking forward to your after action reports. This will be a treat!

  7. That is a superb looking table Jonathan. I look forward to reading the battle reports.

    1. Thank you, Mark! I try to lay out an interesting and aesthetic table.

  8. The table os rally attractiove, Jon, and the scvenatrio sounds interesting. I suspect the French will be hard pressed to do as well as their historical copunterparts. Withe scenario development and play scope for 2 battles, I suspect this set\up might be on the table until Spring... and profitably so!

    1. Grr, someday I will manage to type as accurately as I can quickly, LOL!

    2. Thank you, Peter! Your encouragements are always most welcome.

      The Austrians need to have constraints on their ability to bring all of their forces to bear against the French. Stadion was performing a strong reconnaissance in force. He was to draw the French out, ascertain their strength and then fall back if pressed. How to accomplish that task is still a puzzle.

    3. My typing skills (if you can call them skills) suffer greatly especially when using the keypad on the iPad. Autocorrect causes me problems too. As a fellow sufferer, I know exactly what you mean.

  9. Hi Jonathan,

    Coming late to this particular party. Fabulous and inspiring figs, table, and setup. Have you posted your rules anywhere? Your OOB sheet is quite a teaser! As someone who is working on a set if rules for the era, I would be most interested in sering what you have done.


    1. Ed! You are never too late for the party! Appreciate your encouragement on the game table.

      As for the rules, I have not made it past the "QRS and Note" stage yet. Some day, I will codify the rules. The rules in use for this replay is based heavily on Howard Whitehouse's "Ironsides" and "Old Trousers." The main thesis is that each unit maintains a Combat Effectiveness (CE) rating that changes as its situation changes. All actions, reactions, and decision points are based upon this CE.