Date: Sept 23, 2011
One of the lesser know campaigns of the Napoleonic wars is the Russian-Ottoman conflict of 1806-1812. One of the major battles was Ruschuk (or Ruse) on the 4th of July 1811, indeed the 200th anniversary of the battle. For recreating the battle, we used the "General the Brigade" scenario book n°4 "Against the Ottomans". What I learned from this book is, although the ottoman tactics and organization were obsolete , they still were a major power, giving their adversaries often a bloody nose.
Even if the Russians were victorious at the end, they had to pay a horrific high price in number of casualties. Background of the battle is : the Russians had taken the city of Ruschuk, and were by now under the command of general Kutozow. The Ottomans brought together a vast army under the command of the Grand Vizier, Laz Achmed Pasha. Kutozov took position outside Ruschuk on a hill with all his infantry formed into big squares (each square consisted of 2 battalions). The reason is that the irregular ottoman troops, acted as hordes, and tried always to turn the flanks of their adversaries.
Ronny acted as General Essen controlling the Russian right flank infantry (3 squares + 1 light battery) , Patrick Pots as Count Langeron took the left infantry wing (3 squares + 1 light battery), and I acted as General Voinov with the cavalry (2 regiments of hussars and 2 of dragoons with one horse battery) Both flank were covered by 2 units of Cossacks(these units cannot be controlled by a player, they will charge only when an enemy is in a very unfavorable position, when charged they will retreat, avoiding contact).
The Ottomans were from left to right : Patrick Van Den Brande with the Sipahi Agha cavalry and one Arnaut Binbashi of irregular infantry. Then came Alex being the Grand Vizier with the second Arnaut Binbashi and one Janissary Agha and a light battery, followed by Geert with the second Jannisary Agha and a medium battery and then Siegfried as Bosnak Agha with one unit of Albanian skirmish infantry and 7 units of irregular cavalry
To get in line with the historic battle, any Russian cavalry unit leaving the table, must be pursued by the enemy cavalry unit that drove them of, thus also leaving the table. The battle started with Ottoman cavalry charging a cossack unit on each flank, driven off table and Patrick VBD realizing horrified his unit also left the table, including his attached officer. The remaining Cossacks weren't charged for the remainder of the game. I took the dragoons to the Russian left to counter the large number of cavalry coming up. Counter charging , the dragoons were pushed of table due to flags thrown. Also two enemy units followed in pursuit , but the loss of my dragoons was a to heavy price, my command almost halved. In the center, the Ottoman grand battery destroyed a Russian light battery and also did hid one square badly, while on the Russian left, the skirmishers started to take down several Russian Jäger.
The charges of the Ottoman irregulars on the squares were driven off, but the remaining light battery fell also into Ottoman hands. With one of my hussars, I advanced in the center to try to charge the batteries, however, before being able to do so, became the target of the Ottoman guns and were swept from the field. The result was my command had lost more than 50 and does removed from play. In the same turn, the Jäger square on the left was broken and a square on the right was on breaking point.
Not everything was going bad : the cossack on the right charged an irregular infantry unit reduced to two stand, however in the firing faze, one of the sipahi had to retreat. As their path was blocked by the Cossacks, the sipahi unit broke. Reduced to less than 50%, the Sipahi command was broken. Alex decided to give the coup de grâce : attached the Grand Vizier to a jannisary unit while the jannisary commander was attached to the second unit. All this much to Geert discontent, him willing to finish of the square with his battery. The square however stood firm, and on top of that, the Grand Vizier perished. Suddenly The Ottoman army had lost his commander, panicked, fell apart and fled from the field. For the Russians this miracle could be nothing else than a divine intervention.
The 'Ottoman' players made good use of their irregular troops for weakening the squares in combination with their artillery (Historically, Kutozov mentioned the lethal effect of the Ottoman canons in the battle). Although, the Ottoman players felt the irregulars were to week, they proved to be more effective than historical.
Historically, as in the game, the Russian cavalry was driven off by their Ottoman counterparts. The Russian troops in Ruschuk however counter attacked and did beat of the Ottoman cavalry. The Russian squares stood firm and the attacks of the Ottoman infantry fated away. Kutozov was master of the battlefield and claimed victory. The Grand Vizier and his army however crossed the Danube river and also claimed victory. Afterwards however, the ottoman army was trapped on the northern side of the river and had to surrender. The growing French treat - which resulted in the 1812 campaign - pushed the Russian to make an unfavorable peace with the Ottomans.
ps the iltaleri Arab cavalry was painted by Peter De Ridder
Many thanks to Mr. Dirk Donvil, Belgium.
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