Date: June 19, 2009.
By Dirk Donvil, Belgium
We did a replay of Aspern Essling 1809 in 54mm, as it was the 200 year anniversary of the battle.
We took the OOB of the 2nd day of the battle. As it was a rather big battle (70000 French and allies vs 95000 Austrians)some of the Austrian forces are figures from other nations, resulting in about 650 Austrians and 470 French(+- 1/150). So even with a table of 2.4 meters on 3.6 meters, maneuverings space became limited.
Aspern and Essling are 2 villages close to Vienna on the northern bank of the Donau river. There is a ditch connecting both villages. Napoleon wanted to quickly cross the river to finish of the Austrian army. With improvised Bridges, he only could bring over part of is army while the bridges were useless a great part of the time. Napoleon was surprised to find the Austrian army deployed for battle. The first day of the battle, the villages were lost and retaken several times and reduced to ruins.
In Essling, a granary with massive walls was turned into a fortress, and withstood all Austrian attacks. In Aspern the church and churchyard were the key points. During the night, the French were able to bring some reinforcements, yet the bridge collapses again. Also the Austrians brought up there reserve corps. The French deployment was : Lannes corps in between the villages, Massena had his corps split as defenders of both villages, but mostly concentrated in Aspern. The guard, the light cavalry corps and heavy cavalry corps acting as reserve. Starting from the Aspern side of the table, we have column 1, 2 and 3, then the grenadier reserve, 4th Column, the reserve cavalry and finally 5thcolumn,I took the general command of the Austrians. My plan was to attack with 1st and 5th column between the villages and the Donau river to drain the French reserves, and to weaken Lannes corps with the artillery, first by targeting the artillery afterwards the troops, and then close in with the reserve , 3th and 4th column's greater part of the plan worked, and by noon all French reserves except 1 heavy cavalry division and the light cavalry division quickly had turned towards the flank, and in the centre, Lannes lost most of his artillery. I moved up the Reserve cavalry to hit Lannes flanks, but was countered by LaSalle's Light cavalry. Most of the remaining time both forces charged in turn, and finally LaSalle had to retreat. Alex, playing Lannes wisely took the decision to retreat his remaining troops behind the ditch. 3th and 4th Column and the grenadier reserve could not follow up fast enough due to the bad deployed at the start with the lack of space, and bad dicing for orders. I had limited the dices for orders as the Austrian command chain worked slower then the French.. Lannes escaped except one unit that was in square. On the Aspern side Massena (Geert) took the upper hand of Hiller(Steven) of 1st column. Eddy commanding 2nd column had attracked Aspern itself and could not timely support the endangered 1st column leading to the complete annihilation of 1st column. On the Essling side, the guns of 5th column took its toll of the advancing young guard. The hussars and batteries were charged and silenced by the guard cavalry and young guard, but had inflicted casualties. Also the uhlans countercharged the grenadiers ā cheval, with severe casualties on both sides. A unit of 5th column entered Essling but were evicted the next turn. The french 1st heavy cavalry division came forward, but had an unhappy surprise with the strength of the battalion masses. As what happened 200 year age, the masses stood firm and drove of the cuirassiers and carabineers with heavy losses. A realistic result. Although the guard and cavalry reserve had pushed back 5th column, the price had been high, the only infantry remaining in good order being the 2 units of the old guard. With the massive 3th column now on the move, and the Austrian cavalry reserve still in great strength, on this side the French where saved by the bell.
Conclusion : the result of the battle was remarkably resembling the real one. In the centre , the French had to take cover behind the ditch for the artillery concentration by the Austrians. On the flanks , the French held the villages but for a so high price they had no other option but to retreat, continued fighting certainly would have ended in the lines pierced somewhere and complete destruction. Yet the French players did what the French still do about Aspern Essling of 1809 deny it was a defeat, but can being force to retreat and higher % of casualties be called a victory?
We used figures of many manufactures included a large number of Hät. It's a real pity release E13 came to late to have enabled us to deploy the chasseurs and carabiniers in large numbers. Also the figures of the later releases were missed.
The battle of Wagram will be also be subject of a massive replay in July, but this time in 28mm (sorry but all lead) . It is an organisation of a neighbouring club in which we cooperate The plan is to make 4 tables of 8m on 1.5m EACH, with thousands of figures. .It will be played in Denderleeuw Belgium on the 4th and 5th of July. The yahoo newsgroup is http://groups.yahoo.com/group/refight/ So if you want to learn more about this wargame or even take part of it, join the newsgroup.
Jaegers in skirmish
1st column advances to the gap between Aspren and the Donau
Uhlans on HaT horses
5th column Landwehr and regulars
5th hussars and artillery
3eme legere at the Essling granary
4th column artillery opens fire
Dragoons IV corps
Local attack by Lannes troops to reach Austrian batteries attacks
1st column fights back
Baden IR3 vs Grenzer 6 and 7
Many thanks to Mr. Donvil.
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