Wednesday, December 03, 2014

1806 Campaign: The Umpire's Summary

Victory Conditions
The result is a French major victory. The Prussians did better than in 1806. They avoided a total defeat as happened in the real campaign, but still suffered a major defeat. The Prussian condition for this level of defeat was ‘You cut and run, getting over half your army away across the Elbe.’ This is what occurred by day 11, but the Prussian army is in better shape and held out longer than I expected.

Initial deployment
In Jim’s account the difficult Prussian initial deployment is shown, but the French had their problems too. All their army had to enter at Coburg, Kronach and 1114. Most of it arrived over the first 3 days, but the last units did not come on until day 4. 

Days 1 and 2
As the French came on slowly, and for the Prussians an even fight was about the best they were likely to get, the Prussian decision for a forward deployment gave them a chance to strike south into the mountains on day 2 at Saalburg, and perhaps give the French a bloody nose. However, the Prussians would not have been able to stay there on day 3. But nothing like that happened, and the French moves that brought about the battle of Gera were good. Soult, using the superior French marching ability, went via Plauen to arrive at Gera before the Prussians. Meanwhile several French corps concentrated in the Saalburg-Hof area to advance via Polnitz to support Soult.

Battle of Gera, day 3
A battle description is on the blog so I’ll confine myself to the result. The Prussians assumed there were more French closer than was in fact the case (the Cavalry Reserve ended day 3 in Neustadt and all other French not at Gera were even further away) and decided to retreat overnight instead of trying to destroy Soult’s isolated corps on day 4. The Prussian retreat to Naumberg opened up a direct route to Leipzig for the French, and they took it.
The Prussian King had insisted the Prussians fight a battle before conceding the line Gera-Jena-Sommerda. The battle of Gera released them from this obligation and they were now free to manoeuvre as their CinC wished.

Day 4
A Saxon division was swamped at Jena by the second French force which was operating west of the Saale. This was Lannes, Augereau, the Guard and part of the Cavalry Reserve. Until now the French moves had been text book, but it seemed to me that the French were in danger as they were in two large forces well over a days march apart at the same time the Prussians were unifying their army around 0606 by bringing together their two bodies - a force previously in the Jena area and the force retreating from Gera.

Day 5
The French diverted half of their main body, now along the road between Altenburg and Gera, to Naumberg in the hope of a battle there, but the Prussians crossed the Saale to the west side and the French blow was struck in the air. At the end of the day the Prussians, with about 125,000 men, were concentrated in 3 hexes from Mersberg to Auerstadt, while the French were divided into three forces, of about 50-60000 men each, in 0608, Naumberg and Connewitz. From this point the French remained widely separated but, as things turned out, did not suffer a heavy penalty for it.

Day 6, fall of Leipzig
Scouting was a problem for both sides, as I had intended, so while the Prussians fell back on day 6 to be closer to Leipzig, they did not know that Soult and Bernadotte were poised to attack it. It was possible for Prussians at Merseberg in the morning to intervene and perhaps prevent the fall of Leipzig had the Prussians realised the threat. The fall of Leipzig resulted in the desertion of all the Saxons in the Prussian army.

Days 7 and 8
By the end of day 8 the three French forces were at Achersleben, Ney’s Corps was at Mersberg, and the main body was at Leipzig or immediately south of there. Meanwhile the Prussians had withdrawn to 0603 where almost their entire army was concentrated.
Day 9, Battle of Bittefeld, first day
Both sides blundered into each other in 0703. The French would have advanced from Leipzig a day sooner but for a staff error which cost them a whole day in bringing Davout and the Cavalry Reserve up to Leipzig. The Prussians, seeing their options as marching west towards Madgeburg, where they would have encountered 60,000 men of the French western force, or going east towards Torgau, chose to go east where they met the main body of the French. Here again the Prussians expected there to be more French nearby than there were - on this day the French western force was marching from Rothenburg to Dessau and only Ney’s Corps arrived to support the French main body.

Day 10, Battle of Bittefeld, second day
The Prussians, who should have gone for it on day 9, attacked towards Leipzig on day 10 as the French western force began arriving on the battlefield, uniting all the French in one place for the first time in the campaign. The Prussians were able to stage a fighting retreat via Eilenburg and, the following day, cross the Elbe to safety.

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