Sunday, November 13, 2016

Battle of Olper, August 1st, 1809

The Battle of Olper, August 1st, 1809

Brunswick infantry

In the mood for a small pick-up game of Carnage and Glory 2, I was flipping through one of my scenario books from the General de Brigade system and found an interesting action which called for less than 10,000 actual troops on the table. Luckily, I just recently started to collect a Westphalian army.  This was a perfect small scenario to set up in the garage.

Black Brunswickers ready for the advance !

Westphalian conscripts form lines against advancing Brunswick columns

The Scenario

This action featured a mixed division of Westphalian infantry and cavalry against a smaller Brunswick force that was attempting to break out from the large town of Braunschweigen. It was a classic battle between a larger, yet inexperienced, force against a much smaller, but veteran in quality, formation. Total Westphalian troops numbered slightly over 5,000 while the smaller Brunswick force numbered about 2,800.

Due to the defeat of the Prussians at Jena and Auerstadt, the Duchy of Brunswick was declared null and void by the Emperor Napoleon, who ceded its territory to the new Kingdom of Westphalia. Frederick William, the son of Duke Charles William Ferdinand (mortally wounded during the Jena campaign) resisted Napoleon's decree and organized a small force of 2,000 troops and then promptly offered their service to the Austrians in the great war of 1809. Following Austria's defeat at Wagram and ultimate surrender, the new Duke of Brunswick attempted to march through northern Germany in order to sail his troops to England and continue the struggle against Napoleon. Having captured the towns of Halberstadt and Braunschweigen, a Westphalian division marched to block Frederick William's advance to the coast and the waiting British fleet. To make matters worse, Dutch troops from the direction of Halberstadt were also marching to catch the Brunswick force in a pincer move. Frederick William decided to attack the Westphalians in the direction of the village of Olper and force his way to the coast.

The Brunswick force deployed on the outskirts of Braunschweigen, with the cavalry supporting the left flank. Opposite this position, the Westphalians under General Reubell deployed on the heights overlooking the town of Olper, with the Berg infantry protecting the village. The Westphalian cuirassiers protected the Westphalian right flank next to a large section of wooded terrain.

The Historical Battle

Although the Black Brunswickers initially occupied Olper, they then abandoned it to the Westphalians. The Brunswick troops then aggressively attacked the white-coated Westphalians on the heights. The Westphalian conscripts held firm and the spirited (but small in number) Brunswick troops had to withdraw. The battle was technically a tactical draw, but Reubell's Westphalians strangely abandoned the field during the night. Casualties were very light with only 100-200 casualties on each side. The following morning saw the Brunswick force march to meet the British ships and embark for England. Although General Reubell halfheartedly pursued the Brunswick troops, he was unable to keep the Brunswickers from escaping. Napoleon sacked Reubell for his failure but the General safely escaped to America.

As a postscript, the Black Brunswickers accompanied Wellington's troops in the Peninsular campaign in Spain for years afterward and were also heavily engaged during the Waterloo campaign.

The Game

I wanted to use Carnage and Glory 2 in order to demonstrate the system's ability to handle smaller actions as well as larger battles. The terrain, courtesy of Doug Kline's Battlefield Terrain Concepts, was set up on a 6' x 5' table. Although I had more than enough Brunswick troops to put on the table, I had to use French carabiniers in place of the Westphalian cuirassiers (I'm sure true grognards will notice this from the pictures, so I wanted to be honest about that up front).

Having deployed all of the troops, I noticed that the Westphalian troops in the vicinity of Olper had nice defensive terrain, so I endeavored to avoid this sector and focus on the Westphalian troops in the open.

Initial deployment on the table. Brunwick troops are on the bottom and the Westphalians are deployed in the vicinity of Olper

As the Brunswick force advanced to engage the Westphalians, the Westphalian cuirassiers moved up quickly to anchor Reubell's right flank. The Brunswick hussars then engaged the cuirassiers in a multi-unit charge. 

Westphalian cuirassiers versus Brunswick Hussars

In direct contradiction of my plan, I found the town of Olper was a magnet for a couple of my Brunswick battalions. I found myself totally sucked in to this position and heavy casualties began to mount in the firefights in this sector.

Olper proved to be an irresistible objective and heavy casualties were suffered here

Meanwhile, although the Brunswick Hussars were victorious against the opposing cuirassiers (conscript cuirassiers mind you) the fatigue was already starting to set in among the cavalry. A battery of Brunswick horse guns unlimbered in front of the white coats and were beginning to pummel the Westphalian conscripts. A couple of Westphalian units on the right flank formed square in order to keep the victorious Brunswick cavalry at bay, and suffered even more casualties from the Brunswick guns for their trouble. Meanwhile, a small unit of Brunswick uhlans was searching for a target in the center. 

Artillery on both sides open up

As the cavalry were attempting to creep around the Westphalian right, the main fight continued to erupt around the town of Olper, with the Brunswick troops actually getting the worse of it due to the Berg infantry's superior defensive position. In the center, the Westphalian conscripts began to waver due to the rising casualties from the Brunswick guns, but were replaced by the second line of infantry in order to continue the fight. On the Westphalian right, fatigue really set in among the cavalry and the Brunswick hussars found themselves restricted in their pursuit of the defeated Westphalian cuirassiers (who at this time were beginning to rally and rejoin the fight).

By turn 6, the infantry around the village of Olper were beginning to waver (on both sides). Most units in this sector received "halt in disorder" markers. In the center, the Westphalian numerical advantage was beginning to make a difference, as the supporting second line of infantry began to take its place in the front line, while the Brunswick horse battery was beginning to fatigue noticeably.

Units around the village of Olper begin to waver

The Westphalian infantry, although restricted in movement, began to boldly advance in the center and right flank to put fire onto the Brunswick cavalry. The uhlans and hussars accordingly maneuvered out of musketry range. The use of Westphalian infantry in squares on the flank effectively blocked any Brunswick cavalry thrust in this sector.

The Westphalian conscripts hold their ground and even advance boldly in the center

On turn 8, the move of the game occurred. The Brunswick horse battery, considerably fatigued, in the center failed to notice a Westphalian infantry battalion that had slowly maneuvered onto its flank. When the Westphalians charged, the battery was caught in place. In the ensuing melee, the battery was completely lost and the conscript infantry victorious !  With the right flank secure, the center actually advancing, and the Brunswickers fleeing in front of Olper, the battle was essentially over.

Westphalian infantry charge into and capture the lone Brunswick artillery battery

The Westphalians held their ground against a veteran and highly motivated enemy. The Brunswick troops would retreat back into Braunschweigen in order to regroup for another attack. Total casualties were about 250 Westphalians and 540 Brunswickers (including the only Brunswick artillery battery).

This was yet another example of Carnage and Glory 2's flexibility and "elegance" for any size battle. The battle for Olper provided a break from the typical "French vs Allies" scenario and provided a highly entertaining game as well. German versus German........interesting.

Here is the complete order of battle:

Division Reubell - Attack
  [ 101] Generalmajor Reubell - Active C+ [800 paces]
    Brigade Scharnner - Attack
    [ 102] Generalmajor Scharnner - Active C+ [400 paces]
 [ 101] 1/1st Westphalian Line            0/ 587      C- [sk-]    
 [ 102] 2/1st Westphalian Line            0/ 580      D+ [sk-]    
 [ 103] 3/1st Westphalian Line            0/ 606      D+ [sk-]    
 [ 104] 1/6th Westphalian Line            0/ 497      C- [sk-]    
 [ 105] 2/6th Westphalian Line            0/ 481      D+ [sk-]    
 [ 106] 3/6th Westphalian Line            0/ 500      D+ [sk-]    
    Brigade Wickenberg - Attack
    [ 103] Oberst Wickenberg - Active C+ [400 paces]
 [ 109] 1/3rd Berg Line                   0/ 594      C- [sk-]    
 [ 110] 2/3rd Berg Line                   0/ 627      C- [sk-]    
 [ 111] 1/1st Westphalian Foot Battery    0/ 200 [ 8] C-          
    Regiment Schwimmer - Attack
    [ 104] Oberst Schwimmer - Active C+ [200 paces]
 [ 107] 1/1st Westphalian Cuirassiers     0/ 178      C-          
 [ 108] 2/1st Westphalian Cuirassiers     0/ 186      C-          
       0/  4472 Bayonets
       0/   364 Sabres
       0/   200 Artillerists
       0/     8 Cannon
       0/  5036 Total of all arms
              4 Colors present

Division Wilhelm, The Duke of Brunswick - Attack
  [ 501] Generalleutnant Wilhelm, The Duke of Brunswick - Active B [875 paces]
    Brigade Burnmeist - Attack
    [ 502] Generalmajor Burnmeist - Active B- [400 paces]
 [ 501] 1st Brunswick Inf.                0/ 640      C  [sk-]    
 [ 502] 2nd Brunswick Inf.                0/ 669      C  [sk-]    
 [ 503] 3rd Brunswick Inf.                0/ 666      C  [sk-]    
 [ 504] 1st Brunswick Jagers              0/ 247      C+ [sk+]    
    Brigade Runkel - Attack
    [ 503] Generalmajor Runkel - Active B- [400 paces]
 [ 505] 1/1st Brunswick Hussars           0/ 187      C  [sk+]    
 [ 506] 2/1st Brunswick Hussars           0/ 183      C  [sk+]    
 [ 507] 1/1st Brunswick Uhlans            0/ 120      C  [sk+]    
 [ 508] 1/1st Brunswick Horse Battery     0/ 150 [ 6] C           
       0/  2222 Bayonets
       0/   490 Sabres
       0/   150 Artillerists
       0/     6 Cannon
       0/  2862 Total of all arms
              4 Colors present

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