Monday, July 22, 2013

Austrian Cavalry Artillery Battery

As I've explained in previous posts on the Perry's Napoleonic Austrian artillery I'm doing up, the Austrians didn't have horse artillery in the true sense.  They had a kind of mobile light artillery, unique amongst the armies of the Napoleonic era.  They used it predominantly in support their cavalry formations, hence the reason it became known as cavalry artillery.

The Austrian artillery sets produced by Perry's are amongst their finest and some of the best I have ever seen.  When they came out with them I just had to have a complete set for an Austrian cavalry artillery battery!

Its been a long haul with lots of other figures demanding paint and the odd spot of wargaming too, but I've finally finished my complete cavalry artillery battery set.  Really pleased with how they turned out, even though they occupy a rather large piece of wargaming real estate when you set them up on the table.

The artillery crews come in two basic poses: firing or loading.  The latter kind of adds to the overall base as the guns themselves are long and the rather slender rammer is longer than the gun barrel again.  I'll have to watch them carefully when gaming as the rammers are a bit bendy.

Achtung! Feuer Kanone!

The figures do have fairly fine tendrils of metal flash that have to be carefully trimmed off, some are so fine that they are difficult to spot amongst the other fine detail on the figures.  These figures are 'true' 28mm and the bases are thinner than other makes, which means the figures don't tower over their guns (a real problem I had once with Old Glory's Russian Horse Artillery).  The guns are, as you'd expect, fiddly to make with those funny looking seats on them (their appearance earning them the name 'sausage guns') that come in three sections and a slender handle that attaches to the rear of the gun trail.  All glued together with much Superglue and more patience!

Another shot of the crew loading - note the figure immediately behind.  He's about to place his leather encased thumb over the touch-hole so there's no nasty premature detonation during loading!  
The guy rummaging about in the ammo caisson fits in quite nicely although he is a little too close to the guns - the crew behind are eyeing him nervously!

I've still got a few limbers to do up for my other Austrian batteries but they can wait as I'm doing some Warasdiner Grenz at the moment.  Just been doing a bit of research to make sure I get the colours right, especially on the facings. Grenz Regiment #6 were 'crab red' - an Austrian colour that was closer to a very dark orange than red.  And the cloaks on the back were a really dark red, almost crimson rather than the fire-engine red they are usually depicted as.  This sage advice comes from no less an authority than Osprey author Dave Hollins himself, so I'm going to stick with it. The only concession I'll make is on the webbing which Dave says was mostly standard white as for the rest of the Austrian infantry in 1809.  The black webbing, same as the Jaegers, was only introduced sporadically before then and not for all the Grenzer regiments until after the 1809 campaign.  But I'm going for the esthetics of the black, just for appearances sake.  Like a true heretic.  I'll post 'em up when I've finished them as I also have a regiment of hussars to do as well.  I tell ya folks, for this curmudgeonly old pensioner, the fun just never ends!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Wargaming the 1809 Campaign: Retreat to Ebelsberg

We had our monthly wargaming meeting at the Lanyon club and as Doug and I hadn't been able to attend last month's we decided to have a blast from the past and try a Black Powder Napoleonic game again - our first for some time.  We decided to play-test a possible demo game scenario for a future con so I devised a game from something I put together years ago and published in the now sadly defunct 'Kriegspieler' magazine.  I chose the battle of Ebelsberg during the 1809 campaign, specifically the final scramble of the Austrian forces of the V & VI Corps under FML Hiller to cross the Traun river and march to join the rest of the Austrian army under Archduke Charles.  Hiller had been conducting a 'coat-trailing' operation to make Napoleon think the Austrian army was falling back to defend Vienna.  Ebelsberg was the last major town on the Traun river where Hiller could finally turn and march to join the main army assembling on the Marchfeld.

The Austrians' retreat had become more desperate as troops sought to find a way over the last major river before the Danube and avoid being cut off by the pursuing French. The bridge over the Traun at Ebelsberg was over 500 meters long and the storming of it by the French and the valiant defence of Ebelsberg by the Austrians is one of the epic but lesser known battles of the 1809 campaign.

The battle of Ebelsberg showing the French storming the bridge and the burning chateau on the other side.
Essentially, the better part of several divisions, mainly of Hiller's V Corps were scattered in and around the village of Klein Munchen, situated at a vital crossroads that led to the defile approach to the bridge, the only way across the river into Ebelsberg.  The main arm of this road ran north out of Klein Munchen to the hamlet of Scharlinz, itself situated at the end of another defile that ran through a large forest.  It was down this road that the main body of the French pursuit was coming, led by Marulaz' light cavalry brigade.  Historically, a battalion of Grenzers formed a line across the mouth of the narrow defile.  They drove off the initial charge of Marulaz' Chasseurs and even attempted to ambush French cavalry passing through the narrow road from the forest.  They withdrew to Scharlinz village where they held out briefly before being overwhelmed, the rearguard survivor's eventually joining the increasingly chaotic throng making for the bridge over the Traun.

To make this more interesting and adapt it for the wargaming table I simplified it with three Austrian infantry brigades and one cavalry brigade which composed both a rearguard and units withdrawing through the crossroad of Klein Munchen. Their objective was to hold off the French and prevent them from seizing the crossroads while at the same time getting one or more brigades across the bridge (i.e. off the table) by Turn 6.  The French objective was to seize the crossroads and prevent as many Austrians as possible from getting away by Turn 6.  To do this the French have two cavalry brigades and three infantry brigades converging from three directions. All Austrians start on the table and to speed things up we decided all French forces on the table by Turn 2.

With Doug as the pursuing French, the game started with a predictable traffic jam at the crossroads as Austrian brigades from the left and right flanks tried to negotiate the narrow road through and out of the town to the bridge.  Getting Austrian commanders to direct their troops proved to be as difficult as ever with one managing to get all his brigade on the road heading in the right direction and the other getting half marching and the other half, well, going nowhere or milling about aimlessly outside the town.  Fortunately for the rearguard I put a useful general in charge (Radetzsky - who was actually there historically), leaving his cav bde commander to cover the western road while he directed the rest of the rearguard units (battalions of Warasdiner Grenzer, Hungarian IR 51 Splenyi & 2nd Jaeger with the Erherzog Karl Uhlanen and Lichtenstein Hussars attached) who barred the main road to the north and formed an arc to protect the withdrawing troops on the roads.  The French have initiative so go first in this scenario and Doug immediately launched his veteran Chasseurs-a-Cheval at the Grenzer barring their path, with his hussars behind in close support.

Marulaz' Chasseurs start the game facing the Grenzer at the end of the forest defile
The action was fast and furious with the Grenzer unable to get enough shooting on the French cav before they hit (the Grenzer's little battalion pop-gun proved to be pretty useless and 'died' in the ensuing melee).  Nonetheless the Grenzer managed to hold on.

Troops jam the road into the town as the hussars provide a covering screen
On the eastern approach to Klein Munchen the Lichtenstein Hussars provided a cavalry screen for the retreating Vienna Volunteers of the 2nd Brigade, who had a great deal of trouble actually getting going as their commander in true Austrian tradition repeatedly failed his command rolls! The eagle-eyed amongst you may notice that the hussars are actually Russian - recruited for the purpose as my Austrians are not yet painted!  Similarly I used my Bavarians for the Baden Brigade as unfortunately I sold off all my old Foundry Badeners years ago! (Time to collect another army of them I think!)

Hungarian rearguard bar the road north to allow the retreating units time to negotiate the narrow streets of the town
The main part of the Austrian cavalry with mobile artillery, cover the western approaches.  The French allied Baden cavalry has made an appearance opposite.
French cavalry smash into the redoubtable Austrian Grenzers
The last of the 3rd Bde - its artillery train - clear the town and make it to the bridge.  In the distance opposite the hapless Austrian cav, the entire Baden brigade has deployed!
With the help of the Austrian Uhlans, two French cavalry regiments are destroyed/driven off the field. Result!
Meanwhile confusion reigns on the road into town with  one unit blundering off left (to nowhere) and another unable to even get on the road
Over on the western road the Baden Light Dragoons came up against the famous O'Reilly Chevau-Legers and were destroyed but by then the Baden infantry had come on and the artillery battery deployed.  An interesting discussion ensued about break-through charges and catching infantry units in field column before they form square - which they do automatically in BP.  They would have formed square but not been able to give closing fire but it didn't matter as cavalry will not contact infantry in square when charging (they pull up 3" short I believe). It didn't matter as we agreed (reluctantly) that on this occasion the Chevau-Legers didn't have quite enough movement to do it (they have to be within half their movement i.e. 9") so they retired to their start point where they were promptly hammered by Baden artillery, broke and fled the field!  It was a comedy of errors on this side as both repeatedly failed their command rolls so everyone basically stood there in a sort of Mexican stand-off.  Most painfully my Austrian cavalry battery (the Perry's one in their first game) failed to move, unlimber and shoot for most of the game - then got one hit with a howitzer on a column which Doug managed to save - so effectively useless.  But they looked nice.

The Baden brigade menaces the thin screen of the diminished Austrian cavalry brigade - note the limber finally moving to deploy on the hill.  Yeh, yeh I know - they all LOOK just like Bavarians!
One of the few successes on that side of town - the Baden Jaeger certainly copped a pasting - shaken and disordered but still stayed in the field.  At least it gave me an excuse to use one the the Perry's Austrian 'running man' casualty markers!
On the north road the Uhlans were busy charging into the last regiment of French dragoons.  Although outnumbered they also managed to vanquish the dragoons after a fierce melee.

The plucky Uhlans about to get rid of the last of the French cavalry - and yes, that is Murat posing as the French cav commander Marulaz!
Despite my success against his cavalry, the Austrians were about to get their comeuppance as Doug's vaunted crack light infantry brigade of Tirailleurs Corse, Po and 17th Legere came on to the north and another four battalions appeared on the eastern road opposite the Lichenstein Hussar picquets.

The crack French light infantry come on - the Jaeger skirmishers wisely withdraw but remain within rifle range
The French come on in force faced by a thin screen of Austrian cavalry
Despite the shooting hits I got on the Tirailleurs, it wasn't quite enough to disorder and they charged home into contact with the Jaegers who courageously decided to stand and protect the flank of the Grenzers rather than evade and save themselves.  The resulting hand-to-hand was bloody but even with their wicked sword bayonets (surely worth another pip on the dice!) French numbers finally prevailed.

Courageous Jaegers meet the French onslaught
The French (in column) actually charged the hussars - who counter-charged of course - then won the combat!
The Vienna Volunteers about to die horribly!
On the Austrian right French numbers were starting to make an impact on the confused Austrians.  The hapless battalion of Vienna Freiwillinger copped it in the flank and were promptly destroyed.  At this point (Turn 4?) all remaining Austrians who hadn't made the road to the bridge were ordered to join the rearguard and keep the crossroads and thus the bridge approach out of French hands.  The last retreating battalion about faced,  marched out of town and formed line just in the nick of time as the French came on, smashing into the remaining battalion of Vienna Volunteers.

The final French assault
At the same time Doug's crack Legere & Tirailleurs smacked into the tired Grenzer.  Despite plenty of shooting hits and Doug's uncanny ability to save his hits time and again - it wasn't enough and although the Corsicans bounced back, the Italians pressed home and eventually prevailed.  The Legere  and a Line battalion simultaneously hit the last battalion of the Viennese boys.  They fought off the infantry but as the Grenzer had found, the light infantry veterans were a tough crowd and they finally destroyed the Freiwillinger. 

Brigade commander Coehorn urges his boys for the the final push into the town
Despite heavy casualties their numbers eventually prevailed - the Grenzer , now unsupported, are about to die!
The Italian Tirailleurs de Po break into the town and take the crossroad, effectively cutting off the hard pressed Austrians on either side of town 
The French line battalion was destroyed, the Legere and Corsican Tirailleurs thrown back but both the Grenzer and the Vienna Volunteers were also destroyed, enabling the Italian Tirailleurs de Po to break into the town and take the crossroads, effectively cutting off the hard pressed Austrians on either side of the town. Had the game gone another Turn the French would have controlled the town and the approach to the bridge, cutting off all the remaining Austrian units and forcing them to surrender, pretty much paralleling what happened in the first phase of the Battle of Ebelsberg.

The situation at close of business - a pretty convincing victory to the French
On the western side of town IR 51 Splenyi and the remnants of the cavalry brigade (and their useless commander who has been immediately placed on the retirement list!) were faced with a virtually unscathed Baden brigade and would have been certain to have been hit in the rear or flank by the Tirailleurs in the next move.  As the French were now in the town the Austrians are effectively cut off.  Likewise the Uhlans were isolated to the north, having failed their command.  There was no way the Austrians could have even fought this to a draw in this situation, so I'm happy to give this one to Doug.

It was a lot of fun and with a few tweaks, the scenario could be a good one for the next demo game.  Until I paint some more, it uses up just about my entire collection of Napoleonic armies (minus the Russians and a few Italians & Poles) so it was a worthwhile exercise but I'd better get some more lead painted up!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Conversion - Legere Pioneer & the Austrian Artillery Caisson AND Big Lee's Big Achievement!

Converting the Carabinier figure on the end of the command stand of my redoubtable 13th Legere was something I've been meaning to do for some time but kept putting it off because of the miniscule amount of 'green stuff' putty required. Creating the ammunitions in the Austrian caisson I was building gave me enough reason and putty to try my hand at a simple conversion.  It was also the first time in a long while I'd actually used this two-part modelling putty so it was all a bit experimental. After working it up for a while and getting it warm enough to mold - it was one the coldest days of our winter so far - it actually turned out OK.  The good thing is that it takes a while to dry and set which gives you plenty of time to shape it the way you want. For our Carabinier all that was required was a pioneer's apron, a decent beard and an axe. It was the latter that caused the most problems as I couldn't find one to suite, so had to scratch-build it out of bits and pieces.

Our Legere command stand - the figures are Old Glory & Hinchcliffe (the hornist). 
Should have done a 'before & after' as I've already applied the green stuff to the carabinier
Detail showing the scratch-built axe
Shaping the metal axe head was a pain but I managed it out of a bit of metal flash from the Perry's caisson wheels.  You have to be careful removing it as it connects the two wheels rather solidly and you will rip the wheel rim off part of it unless you cut it precisely - as I discovered when making the limber up previously!

Dunno if I got the sling arrangement for the axe correct - I think the entire axe head was encased in a canvas sleeve - but I have seen them slung like this too.  Anyway Smiling Jim here now looks more suitably ferocious with his bushy beard as befits a pioneer type and most importantly, he's got an axe!

Once I got this one out of the way I got stuck into my caisson model.  What a challenge!  It was missing its fifth wheel (that I belatedly discovered is attached on the rack at the rear) and a funny little cage basket arrangement at the other end which has horse blankets stuffed in it or something.  Anyway I reattached the rack and bent it into the shape required and found a suitably sized wheel to go on it.  The spare wheel has a boss and plate arrangement to hold it to the caisson rack which I ended up making out of plastic bits and pieces.  The other end of the rack was bent into shape to fit the front as the carriage basket.  In addition, given that the figure supplied with it is opening the cover to it I thought the caisson should have some ammunition in it, hence the 'green stuff' modelling putty.

I should emphasize that I was guessing what the inside of a full caisson would look like, based on what I know of what the Austrian artillery used. One picture I saw showed a partitioned caisson with three or four sections containing powder and shot in stitched into bags.  I opted for something a little more ad hoc with stacked ammo under a canvas cover, with some loose shot and some powder bags at the other end.  The artilleryman figure supplied with it is an interesting pose - it could be an Austrian surrendering too! (Hmmm, one of the Austrian casualty poses was a figure running away, now one in a 'hands up' pose - am I sensing a theme here?)

Hey I'm just lifting the lid on the caisson - not surrendering OK?!
While artillery ammunition was 'bagged up' the powder in an exact amount in a linen bag, placed into a larger one with the ball on top and then stitched up, it was equally likely to be stored separately when on the march. When rammed down the gun barrel, the powder bag would be directly under the touch hole. The detonator was a quill full of fine powder used to prick a hole into the bag which was then ignited via the touch hole. A hazardous business made less so if you had everything sealed up rather than a lot of loose powder but you can imagine going through this prepared shot very quickly in action.

To give you an idea, the average caisson carried 300 prepared shot, ideally a caisson for each gun in a battery.  The gun limber had a small shot locker which carried up to 30 prepared bags of powder and ball (for a 6 pdr - obviously less for a larger calibre gun) but operating at peak efficiency - and Austrian artillery was nothing if not efficient! - this would be expended in between 15 - 30 minutes of continuous firing. One caisson would give a battery of  four to six guns about an hours worth of continuous firing.  At Aspern-Essling nearly 200 Austrian guns were estimated to have fired off more than 20,000 rounds, firing over nearly 10 hours. For Wagram it was nearly double that amount - so that's a lot of artillery caissons! Massed artillery in any battle was an enormous enterprise, with hundreds of wagons drawn by thousands of horses just to keep the guns firing. 

Well, that's the caisson done.  The base is about 5mm shorter than the artillery limber base (minus the lead horse team section) so hopefully not taking up too much room on the table.  Now on to the Wurst gun battery. And a Grenzer battalion, and another one of Hungarian line and ...  about time to put the brushes down for a bit and do some wargaming I think!


As a postscript to this post and a shameless plug for the chance of a prize I present the title banner from Big Lee's latest post on the BLMA blog:

Seriously folks, its quite an achievement for our hobby - I've not heard of anyone reaching that milestone so well done to the big fella and in blogging terms lang may yer lum reek!