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Capaign Options for Wavre
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TOPIC: Capaign Options for Wavre

Capaign Options for Wavre 2 weeks ago #1

  • mcaryf
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The launch of the new Wavre scenarios has enabled me to start thinking about the next stage of my campaign game that is based on using historic starting forces but eradicating the more serious errors the French commanders made. Thus I have now created scenarios for Ligny and QB where Napoleon gets to use the Cavalry and 4th Division from D’Erlon’s Corps at Ligny and Ney can use the 1st Division and Corps artillery at QB and the player can decide whether to use either or both the other two D’Erlon Divisions at Ligny or QB.

I am now thinking about the impact of eradicating the mistake that Napoleon made in not despatching Grouchy to follow the Prussians until 11am on 17th June and the mistake that Grouchy and his commanders made in not continuing their advance as early as they could have done on the 18th June. The impact of these mistakes was probably to delay Grouchy’s progress by at least 5 hours. This would mean that his forces would be ready to attack across the Dyle at Limale, Bierges or Wavre before noon.

I have not previously seen any serious analysis of Grouchy’s real options with most commentators satisfying themselves with the statement that by acting more quickly he could have disrupted the Prussian move towards Waterloo.

In fact even if he had been at the Dyle by noon he would not have been able to stop Bulow’s IVth Corps the rear of which was past the Limale area by then. The two other Corps that historically moved to Waterloo were Pirch’s IInd Corps and Ziethen’s Ist Corps. Apart from a detachment under Stengel guarding the crossing at Limale, Ziethen’s Corps was in the area of Bierges and did not actually start to move towards Waterloo until about 2pm as it was delayed by IInd Corps passing to the North of it on the way to join IVth Corps. Soon after noon the van of IInd Corps would have been passing to the North of Limale.

The main body of Thielmann’s III Corps was at La Bavette North of Wavre but with some detachments guarding Dyle crossings. He was expecting to follow Pirch to Waterloo if the French did not threaten the Wavre area.

What then would Grouchy’s options be?

1) He could attack and try to cross at Limale about noon. That would probably result in Pirch’s Corps heading down to join Stengel’s force guarding the crossing otherwise their column could be taken in flank once Grouchy thrust Stengel aside. Historically the vanguard of Pirch’s Corps reached Plancenoit at about 7pm and delivered a decisive attack there contributing significantly to the French defeat. An attack at Limale being contained by Pirch would not prevent Ziethen from moving to Waterloo where his van arrived at about 7.30pm and importantly reinforced Wellington’s left flank allowing the English cavalry there to move to reinforce Wellington’s centre. In the event of an early Limale attack, Thielmann’s Corps could probably try to reinforce Pirch by moving along both banks of the Dyle from Wavre. This might well result in a heavy defeat for Grouchy if part of his force became trapped on the wrong side. This risk would also depend on how much strength Grouchy had but he would have prevented two Prussian Corps from joining Wellington.
2) Grouchy could attack Bierges any time up to 2pm. This would engage Ziethen and almost certainly prevent his Corps from moving to Waterloo, however of the three Prussian Corps that went to Waterloo Ziethen’s was the weakest having suffered heavy losses both before and at Ligny . Bierges is closer to Thielmann’s main body at La Bavette and his Corps could potentially reinforce Ziethen more quickly than it could Pirch’s Corps if Grouchy attacked at Limale.
3) Grouchy could delay and attack Limale after most of Pirch’s Corps had passed through to the North of the village. A threat to Pirch’s rear might result in Ziethen moving to assist whilst Pirch’s van continued to move toward Plancenoit. The outcome would be that Ziethen would not move to Waterloo but as Grouchy would be fighting the weakest Prussian Corps (I), he might be able to withdraw from the battle before Thielmann’s reinforcement’s arrived and preserve his threat from the far side of the Dyle.
4) Finally if Grouchy had been assigned more of a token force, which is what the Prussians thought he had, he could just demonstrate opposite Wavre to ensure that Thielmann did not also move to Waterloo which might be significant if Waterloo went on into a second day.

I would be interested to have any comments as to whether there are more options before I start to develop the scenario. I will probably make it start at 11am with Grouchy about an hour from Limale. I will give Grouchy the units in his OOB that he actually had into which I will slot whatever strengths they have after my Ligny scenario. I will build in facilities so that the player can discard those units that he chooses to be at Waterloo which would probably be Gerard’s Corps.

These are the sort of considerations a player will have to evaluate in deciding how much strength to allocate to Grouchy after the conclusion of Ligny at the same time the player will also need to judge how much more strength the French might need at Waterloo. I had not previously thought much about events from Grouchy’s perspective. He did have more than 30,000 men, albeit recently heavily engaged, but he was following a Prussian Army with in excess of 50,000, albeit recently defeated, which was meeting up with another entirely fresh Corps with more than another 30,000 men. Perhaps his forces’ late start on the 18th June indicated that they were not entirely certain they really wanted to meet up with the 85,000 enemies ahead of them!

Regards

Mike

Re: Capaign Options for Wavre 1 week ago #2

  • mcaryf
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I have been further checking the historic records and examining the way the standard Wavre scenarios play to consider what Grouchy could or should attempt to do in my campaign scenario.

The first thing to consider is the Prussian’s actual impact on Waterloo. In the standard game “all day” scenario the Prussians only have 4 x Infantry Divisions/Brigades and 3 x Cavalry Divisions present at Waterloo. I guess this is to achieve a better game balance. Historically 6 x Prussian Infantry Divisions/Brigades and 4 or 5 Cavalry Divisions actually participated before the French collapse. A further 3 or 4 Prussian Infantry Divisions/Brigades and 2 or 3 Cavalry Divisions would have arrived before nightfall. They could have fought if needed and did actually participate in the pursuit.

It would probably be fair to ascribe to Grouchy some credit for the 6 x Infantry Brigades/Divisions and 3 or 4 Cavalry divisions that could not have participated at Waterloo on the 18th June as his approach and attacks did cause some Prussian units either to stay and defend Wavre or at least temporarily delay their departure.

The actual Prussian deployment made it virtually impossible for Grouchy to prevent at least 6 Prussian Infantry Divisions/Brigades from reaching Waterloo. Thus a player’s strategy has to be aimed at both strengthening Napoleon so he can cope with the Prussians that do arrive and trying to use the Grouchy force to limit the Prussians to just the 6 rather than the 10 that might have participated historically.

There are two possible strategic approaches with respect to Grouchy – one is to strip his to a minimal force so that Napoleon is stronger at Waterloo. However, unless Grouchy has at least 6 Divisions including 2 x infantry, I will create a variant within the Waterloo scenario to penalise the French player by accelerating the Prussian arrivals in particular by allowing most of Third Corps to have moved from Wavre to support Wellington’s left flank arriving about noon and having the Prussian First Corps arriving to attack towards Plancenoit along with the 15th Division/Brigade from IVth Corps at about 2pm. The rest of IVth Corps was historically delayed by a fire at Wavre. The Ist Corps was at Bierges and waited until the delayed units of IVth Corps passed by on the road net immediately North of them but obviously could have set off 3 or 4 hours earlier than they did whilst the road net was clear during the fire.

The second strategic approach would be to allow Grouchy enough strength so that coupled with an earlier arrival he could make a real difference to the Prussian move to Waterloo.

In my post above I gave some examples of what he might have done. However, reading more of the historical account makes it clear that Grouchy’s force did not succeed in any of their attempts to overcome a defended river crossing. At Basse-Wavre the Prussians destroyed the wooden bridge. For the stone bridges in Wavre the Prussian defence successfully used barricades, several batteries of guns and many skirmishers using loopholes in buildings along the river front. The attackers also failed at Bierges. The French only managed to cross at Limale in the evening because the local Prussian commander made a mistake in pulling his force back from the bridge and river to high ground north of the village – perhaps he was expecting the French to get across at Bierges and attack him from there. Pajol’s cavalry managed to approach rapidly and get across before the defenders could get near the bridge.

As I use an artillery mod similar to the one in KS, with canister ranges more than twice the standard game, I think the French would also fail to cross the river in my Wavre scenarios. I do not want to deliberately move Prussian defenders back from the bridges earlier in the day especially as there will be even more of them in the vicinity then e.g. all of First Corps at Bierges. However, examining history reveals a solution, there was an unguarded stone bridge South of Limale that Grouchy could have used at Mousty (or Moustier). In fact it was even held by the French because a detachment of Napoleon’s cavalry (from Marbot’s Hussars) had been stationed there waiting to make contact with Grouchy as Napoleon assumed he would use that bridge!

Mousty would be just off the South-east edge of the map so my solution for the scenario is to build in a facility for some of Grouchy’s force to start on the North Bank of the Dyle in the bottom left hand corner of the map. This will either be Pajol’s Cavalry plus Teste’s Infantry Division or Gerard’s corps if the player does not choose to allocate that unit to Napoleon for use at Waterloo. Grouchy will have a centre force consisting of Vandamme’s Corps with which he can approach Limale from the South bank and a right wing and advance guard of Exelmann’s Cavalry Corps possibly augmented by Girard’s Infantry Division. If the player wants to go for the minimal option and allocate Vandamme’s Corps to Napoleon as well, then Grouchy will just have 2 infantry and 4 cavalry divisions and for campaign purposes it will be assumed that no serious fighting occurs at Wavre but Grouchy’s presence will delay six Prussian Infantry Divisions/Brigades so that the other ten will arrive at their historical times on the battlefield of Waterloo.

Thus my options plus variants for Grouchy will be:
1) No Grouchy force – all Prussian units will arrive at Waterloo starting earlier than historic.
2) Grouchy just 6 x Divisions Teste, Girard + 4 x cav. – Prussian’s have historic arrival pattern.
3) Grouchy has Vandammes, Exelmann, Pajol, Teste and/or Girard
4) Grouchy has Vandammes and Gerard and possibly plus Teste and/or Girard (i.e. historic)

Note Girard’s was the Division that suffered heavy losses at Ligny including Girard himself and was left to sort out the battlefield e.g. weapons, prisoners, wounded.
Any other suggestions?

Mike
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