Sunday, July 14, 2013

Eylau: Murat's Charge

Having played the first scenario of the Battle of Eylau  a couple of times, we were ready to move on to the second part, Murat's Cavalry Charge. Historically, the Russians under Bennigsen were pushing back the French under Napoleon, when Joachim Murat, "First Horseman of Europe", led 13,000 cavalry in a charge which broke through the Russian lines and disrupted their advance. Napoleon was able to hold a draw until nightfall, when the Russians withdrew, leaving the French holding the field.

In this battle, the French have seven infantry (including a unit of Old Guard), three artillery, and seven cavalry (including a Guards Heavy Cavalry); almost all the infantry is on the flanks, with the cavalry in the center. Opposing them, the Russians have eleven infantry, three artillery and five cavalry, although two of those cavalry are Lights and two more are Cossack.  Josh took the French.

The Russians got first move and immediately sent two battalions to attack the one Ligne infantry in the center; the Russian grenadiers broke them with the bayonet on the first charge. After that I concentrated on wiping out the two forward artillery batteries, which the grenadiers accomplished with heavy casualties. I sent my one unit of cuirassiers to tie down the French infantry on my left, but their concentrated musketry quickly destroyed the squadron. My Cossacks spotted a gap and drove through. "Grigory, those other fools are riding around the French to loot their camp. We shall ride straight through them, and get there first!" Slashing left and right, laughing and chugging vodka, they rode across the front of the French heavy cavalry (who stood amazed) to charge into the mouths of the French Horse Artillery battery in the rear.   Yes, a single, unsupported Cossack squadron broke through the center of 13,000 cavalry...almost. Except for the actual "breaking through" part. A little matter of the French artillery getting to fire back. Ah, well.

The French horse continued to stand still, then stand still a little more, followed by doing nothing much. Meanwhile, on my left, their infantry pushed back my two remaining units (one light cavalry, one light infantry); and on the right, Napoleon himself sent the Old Guard ahead, and followed them with a line battalion. They captured the windmill on my far right and advanced against the ridge line I was holding, trying to turn my right flank. They assaulted, but my grenadiers and guns struck first, and drove back the Old Guard unit. "La Garde recule!" Okay, technically they took one flag hit and elected to use it instead of ignoring it, but they still retreated.

By the end of the game, I had no units on my flanks; everything was pulled in to defend my three gun batteries and the ridge line they held. And finally the French cavalry stirred itself and charged. The Guards Heavies and Cuirassiers swept past Eylau and threw themselves at the right flank of the ridge, wiping out the artillery battery I had anchoring that end and one poor depleted infantry battalion. That was enough to gather the final two victory banners the French needed. Final score, French 9, Russians 5...although the Russians claimed "Most Glorious Charge" for their insouciant Cossacks, and also counted "driving back the Old Guard" as a moral victory.

Josh revealed that he'd had two Cavalry Charge cards in his hand the whole game, but only at the end did he get cards for the center section that would allow him to marshal his squadrons before the charge. He also pointed out that "you played the Russians in French style"--daring attacks, bayonet charges and so forth--while he'd played the French in a stolid, plodding, inexorable Russian style. A fun game.

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