The crossing of the Lahn…

After the disaster that was the ‘Pursuit at Drei Furten‘, the Allied army commander Prince Ferdinand, broke of the pursuit of the retreating French forces in Marshal Contades sector. Attention swung to another front, where he needed to force a crossing over a branch of the River Lahn. This crossing was along his line of march being used to reunite the separated forces of lieutenant general v. Imhoff corps and that of general v. Wangenheim. Scout reports received over the past few days confirmed that the French had secured the bridge crossing with horse, foot and gun and the steep banks of the Lahn branch, would make the crossing difficult.

For this difficult task Ferdinand would have to rely on lieutenant general v. Imhoff’s men to breach the crossing and allow the army to begin its concentration for the expected decisive battle against Marshal Contades French.

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(Note – this scenario is Battle Scenario #6 in the S&L Battle Scenarios – River Defence.

In this game the Allies were the (attacking) Red forces and the French the Blue (defending) forces. As part of this scenario both sides had extra terrain they could lay on-table as well as deploy their armies…both of which were completed hidden from their opponent. What troops, where and on what terrain would be unknown until the ‘reveal’ once all force were deployed on table.

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Viewed from behind the Allied position. The blue area is ‘hidden from view’ by the red side.

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The ‘big reveal’ – several things are worth pointing out.

Red forces (closest to camera) have placed a hill overlooking the river and wood adjacent to the road and town. To the left of the wood is a large-ish open wood standing before the three red force units positioned on the hill. These two terrain features were part of red force’s terrain placement.

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On the south side of the river three terrain pieces (excluding the bridge) have been placed by blue force.

Right of picture is marsh land that has a unit of light infantry in it. Then there is the aforementioned small wood adjacent to the road and lastly on left flank there is a hill that a unit of cavalry is deployed behind.

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…a solid battleline of troops that will not be easy to overcome.

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Battle plans

The above shot shows the layout of both armies, Allied (bottom) and French (top).

The Allied player as the attacker to a great degree holds the initiative as to where he will mass for his assault. The plan, as decided by the Allied force commander, general v. Imhoff, is to mass an assault force positioned behind a hill and thereby avail itself of a covered approach from behind high ground overlooking the wood and town to its front.

This assault force would be made up of a brigade of attached grenadiers from the recently arrived Napier, Kingsley, Royal Welsh Fusiliers (or Huske), Homes, Stewart, Brudnel battalions. In advance of this brigade were two medium gun batteries and a howitzer battery that would position itself on the hill from which it would reign down fire on any enemy to their front clearing the way for the infantry assault.

To their left, positioned on the high ground to the left-rear were three battalions of Hessian-Hanoverians. This force was to move toward the wood and emerge and ultimately press any advantage it may happen upon and thus turn the French right flank. On the Allied left flank two brigades of cavalry would be placed as a ‘force in being’…holding itself ready to press an assault and/or threaten any enemy to its front.

The French commander, Chevalier du Châtelet, had as his mission to keep the Allied force from crossing the river in numbers…anywhere. Fortunately for him he had sufficient troops on hand to adequately man this position. Not knowing the Allied force dispositions (due the blind setup) he deployed in the hope to secure one flank with rough ground (wood and swamp) and put an infantry brigade opposite open ground should the Allies be foolish enough to attempt a frontal assault over from this direction.

Cavalry massed together – 4 small units of horse (note there should be two brigadiers, not one)

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Opening Moves

As planned, Imhoff’s men stepped off in good order. The battery advanced forward quickly (a double move) and deployed their cannon on the hill. For now, the left wing infantry brigade would hold position, as would the right wing cavalry.

…following up behind the gun battery were the grenadiers closely formed up in a quasi column of attack.

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In response, Châtelet advanced his light troops out of their position down into and across the shallow river in an attempt to seize the wood ahead and create mayhem under cover of the rough terrain.

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…seeing this advance Imhoff immediately ordered his brigade of infantry forward to occupy the wood…

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…with a ‘boom’ the Allied cannon open up a barrage on the French infantry opposite the river, inflicting some casualties, due in large part to their exposed position. In riposte two French gun batteries return fire and damage the central battery, scoring hits of their own.

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…the Allied infantry wait patiently in cover , letting their cannon prepare the way…

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…looking to press the enemy and with only light infantry to their front, the Hanoverian Brigade advances forcing the French light infantry to withdraw…

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…still the guns fire and the massed allied guns start to take a toll on the brave Frenchmen standing in, and holding, the line.

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After three turns of fire, the French battalion has had enough. With many men falling they are forced to withdraw (4 hits)…”hurrah!”…the Allied infantry cry out, not a musketeer has fallen and the French are withdrawing in retreat…

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…seeing the French line open up, the lead Hanoverian battalion presses forward and issues a volley…to no effect…

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With one battalion of infantry in retreat, the French commander realises the Allies need only sit on their hill and pound him into dust…he must act. Waving his hat, he orders the left flank brigade of infantry to advance across the river supported by the two regiments of dragoons.

General Imhoff directs his cavalry to quickly move up and contest the crossing…they pull up within charge and long firing range from the infantry to their front.

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Realising the threat that is now unfolding to his right flank, general Imhoff orders the grenadiers to shake out into line to protect the artillery and secure the right flank of the army, with the cavalry a ‘floating force’ to manoeuvre as required. The grenadiers move slowly but start to form up ready to respond to any threat.

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…with infantry to their front the allied cavalry brigades now have a choice – charge directly into contact and melee or withdraw. The  brigadiers confer and decide to withdraw, not wanting to squander their squadrons if their charge is stopped by musketry fire…

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Meanwhile, on the Allied left flank the brigadier, conferring with Imhoff himself, misunderstands his orders. In a moment, he orders an immediate assault across the river!…(an inspiring command roll).

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…charging into the river the Hanoverian battalion is met with a withering fire from the French light troops (3 hits!). In an instant the left flank attack is stopped dead in its tracks…whilst the two other battalions head in the direction of the enemy in the woods to their front.

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Battle is now joined ‘proper’…the Allied left flank/French right flank are engaged in a firefight. The Allied artillery shift focus to the French infantry in the wood and inflict minor damage (1 hit). The French commander then reveals that one of his batteries are made up of the best gunners in his corps!..playing an event card this enables a battery to roll two dice to hit, with one being chosen for the fire result.

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…whilst the French infantry brigade fire all along the line at the cavalry to their front with their battalion guns, scoring hits on every unit to their front…excellent tir!.

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With his infantry now well forward and dominating the allied cavalry to their front the dragoon brigade swings to their right…their commander unleashing an unexpected (by a double move) and immediate charge! The British grenadiers, still thinking they had time to shake out now have to respond to this imminent threat to their flank….with parade ground precision the ‘mitre men’ wheel right and form a perfect line to face off against the horsemen to their front.

…General Imhoff, seeing the threat, immediately breathes a sigh of relief as the Englishman respond to the challenge…

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…with events happening very quickly on the Allied right flank, on their left the impetuous attack starts to come apart. The same Hanoverian battalion that attempted to sweep the French lights in the previous contest are now summarily sent to flight by another crisp volley by the men of the petite guerre…(5 hits from two rounds of fire!).

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…the battlefield is now a scene of chaos and death…

An exchange of musketry ensues on the French right flank that all but secures their position much to the chagrin of Imhoff. The as yet unknown unit of French men in the woods near the town turned out to be a battalion of Swiss infantry from Regiment Diesbach. Veterans every one of them (Superior) they easily held their ground as the allied left flank attack now ground to a halt…

…more casualties mounted up on the Allied right flank cavalry and the horsemen now found themselves in a tight spot with a brigade of infantry to their front and not alot of options…

..so while the Allied left and right flank were under very heavy pressure, it looked as if the French cavalry were about to seal the victory with their charge.

However, the British are nothing if not excellent shots…and with a crisp volley at close range the lone battalion unsaddled the entire front row of dragoons…causing three hits. As the French horsemen floundered forward into contact they were met with a wall of bayonets that offered them no respite. In an instant the horsemen turned tail and ran, bursting through the supporting unit of cavalry behind…

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…though both generals did not know it, this ‘deathride’ was likely the best chance the French had to sweep the allies from the field…there was however, still plenty of fight left in the French…and Allies…

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“…reload men!…still more froggies to the front….”

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The situation is one of a twisted tale. The Allies are the ones who are supposed to breach the river crossing but it is in fact French who are counterpunching and seeking to drive the Allies away with an attack of their own. Nevertheless, the Allies press on in an attempt to strike out for the town and drive away the Swiss in the woods…easier said than done…

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…the Allied cavalry by this stage realise that they can do little before the French musketeers to their front…availing themselves of the edict that discretion is the better part of valour, they hastily withdraw having done their job of ‘drawing off’ the French infantry line.

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…by this stage the grenadier brigade has sorted itself out and formed a solid line of infantry in front of the remaining French dragoon regiment…

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“…steady lads…wait for it!…”

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…the grenadiers, not yet done, delivered some long range fire on the now withdrawing French dragoons who decided a frontal assault against two fresh grenadier regiments suicidal…the fire was effective enough to reduce the cavalry regiment’s fighting effectiveness for the day (3 hits)…

…so, whilst the grenadiers held the line in the centre the attack on the Swiss most decidedly did not go well. The lead Hanoverian battalion and supporting unit chose to fall back to enable some defence of the allied left flank to continue.

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…that rearward movement however would not go unmolested. With the order to fire given…the Swiss men of regiment Diesbach delivered a sharp volley into the Hanoverians and they made haste back across the river, their ranks broken, they having been slowed in it in their previous retrograde movement…

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“…zurück über den fluss…”

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…like a rock, the Swiss hold the right of the French position…

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By this stage things were going quite the French way on their right flank and left flank, but their soft centre had crumbled before the musket fire of the British grenadiers…the French still had 3 break points remaining, the Allies 4…things were getting tight for the Allies as their left and right wings became vulnerable to a potential collapse….there was a lot of work to be done if victory was to smile on von Imoff today…

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…no sooner had the smoke cleared that the grenadiers got their fire away first and with their long range battalion gun they were able to see off the French dragoons…another French unit broken…

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…the French now had only two break points left and their left wing brigade of infantry had their flank dangerously exposed to the jubilant grenadier brigade…meanwhile, the central allied gun batteries started to concentrate on counter battery fire to nullify the effect of the French gunners and attempt to eliminate yet another unit titling the good Chevalier to order a withdrawal, whilst one fresh Allied cavalry brigade moved in column behind the safety of the gun battery on the hill…

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..the French dragoons…their day is done…beat a hasty retreat…eeerrr..rout…

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…the second Allied cavalry brigade continued their retreat in ‘good order’ away from the muskets of the French infantry…

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…as smoke now filled the valley events took a dramatic change beyond their commander’s control…

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…the British grenadier brigade commander took it upon himself, seemingly following von Imoff’s orders, to attack the French infantry (they rolled a 6 for an Inspiring command result). Without hesitation the entire elite British grenadier battalions threw themselves into combat onto the flank of the exposed French musketeers…

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…responding to the challenge the French brigade commander, to his great credit, quickly ordered his support infantry battalions to assist in shoring up the brigade flank and supporting their beleaguered comrades…

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…both units in the fight were supported but clearly the British grenadiers were in the better position…

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…whilst the infantry contest was yet to be resolved the concentrated and decisive counter battery fire of three batteries on one was to much for the French gunners…they broke and ran as limber, caisson and horse lay dead all around…

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…with the loss of the French artillery battery the French break point was reduced to one…if one more unit breaks the army is done for…as insurance, von Imhoff has his cavalry close at hand in column ready to launch themselves across the bridge and into the town to seize the position and secure the victory…

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…but the cavalry will not be needed. In a desperate struggle the French infantry gallantly drove back the British grenadier battalion before it, but not before all was lost as their colors fell and their colonel dead…the musketeers broke and fled for their life…merde!..

…the supporting French battalion, a unit of Scots in French service, lamented at the chance to strike back at the English…some recounting this a missed opportunity to settle a few scores from Culloden!

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…in what turned out to be lopsided victory to general Imhoff and his allied troops the battle was much closer than it looked. For now the retreating Frenchmen, musketeers and gunners alike, made haste to the rear and away…

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Postscript

… A much closer battle than the final result would seem to indicate.

The Allied player plan to maximise his advantage with his larger artillery battery was sound. By being able to place advantageous terrain in a position that could dominate, at least part of the battlefield, whilst at the same time sheltering a strike force from return enemy artillery fire was certainly a good idea.
Fortunately, for the French player, he chose to deploy difficult ground in front of the position that the Allies had chosen for their attack. Had it been around the other way and the three French infantry battalions and supporting cavalry been in front of the allied batteries it would’ve made the French position untenable. As it was the French were well-placed for a counter punch to try and unhinge the Allied plan which almost came off.

The turning point of the battle occurred when the French dragoons charged at what could’ve been a decisive moment to sweep both a grenadier infantry battalion and the artillery from the Allied position. Had that occurred it most likely would have won the game for the French. If one combines the French infantry brigade and its fire along with the French cavalry charge, which so nearly came off, the final result of four break points left for the Allies and none for the French really didn’t indicate how close things actually were.

One thing that has become apparent throughout the games that we have played is the power of superior infantry and indeed cavalry. Because they strike on their own line on the hit table they are in fact more deadly than they appear to be from just a look at that the modifiers for combat.
The scenario structure has worked well though insofar as the number of superior troops has been relatively low in most of the contests which is as it should be. For this action however it was a good Allied plan that was pulled off in the end and save by those very high quality troops who delivered the decisive moment by defeating and breaking three enemy units despite a most gallant French counter attack that almost delivered honours for the French king…

…on to the campaign…

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Campaign continues

With the Allied victory two event cards were drawn and two discarded leaving the Allied player with three cards in hand.

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In addition, and most importantly, the Allied army marker was advanced along the green track, placing it well along the track…

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…the French then rolled for movement. They scored a ‘2’ advancing and landing on a ‘draw card’ space…

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..the Allies then rolled again scoring a ‘1’…

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…this landed them on the ‘supplies arrive’ space and bumped them up onto the next, and last, level…most fortuitous!..

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..the Allied player also played a Bad Weather card on the French…

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…this pushed the French army marker back three spaces…

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..next the French roll again…scoring a ‘3’!..advancing them forward from whence they came…

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…then the Allied roll…scoring a ‘4’…one short from the Final Battle!..

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…over to the French…they roll a 4 which puts them in a Battle Box…with the French as the attacker…they draw one event card and then roll for the battle type…

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…they roll a ‘1’ resulting in ‘High Ground’…

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…High Ground was the same battle the French fought and won in Game 2 of the campaign…so the question will be answered …will the French win again and catch up to the Allied campaign current progress or not? The Allies have to roll exactly ‘1’ to advance into the Final Battle box…which might take them some time. They at least can’t be made to go backwards and down (the campaign track) unless the wily Frenchman has an event card he can play to ruin the Allied plans.

…stay tuned for the next clash in the French Summer campaign of 1759…

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One thought on “The crossing of the Lahn…

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