It is 1807. Displeased by Napoleon's Continental System and the effects it has had on trade, Britain has sent an amphibious force to northern Germany to help keep the Baltic trade routes open. While ships of the Royal Navy hang at anchor, an army of 24,000 men under General Estwold has landed to march down the coast and seize the port of Rostock. Unfortunately the Dukes of Ruritania and Brunswick, motivated more by dislike of British arrogance than loyalty to Napoleon, have marched to defend the town and throw the British back into the sea.
26,000 men now stand against the British, hoping to break their assault before they reach Rostock. They meet near the village of Raufheim...
|Initial set-up. Raufheim at the crossroads in the rear.|
On the day of battle, the German right was held by the Duke of Brunswick's men, secreted in the Erlen Woods. The village of Erm held his vaunted horse artillery. Reist's division held the centre of the line, with Aache's division on the northern slopes. Behind Reist lay von Kleist's mounted division, today personally led by the Duke of Ruritania himself.
The British centre was held by the First Division, which counted among its ranks the 2nd Brigade of Guards. On their left was McAuliffe's Scots Division, and on their right, the Light Division, which was tasked with seizing the bridge across the Raufen. The cavalry division under Imbert held the rear, waiting for the chance of a breakthrough.
The day began with a brisk British advance. Slowed by the woods, the Light Division nonetheless made the best progress, as the main line slowed to face the Brunswickers. All along the line muskets began to fire, but the cunning concealment of the blackclad Germans kept them safe from the brunt of it. The 2nd Brigade charged Erm, and after a bitter struggle managed to rout the German artillery and spike the guns.
Realising the situation the Duke of Brunswick was about to be caught in, Reist moved his regular regiments forward, leaving his grenz and landwehr to guard the crossroads. They looked a fine sight marching forward in the morning sun, their standards snapping in the breeze. From his vantage point on the hill, Aache saw the first elements of the Light Division leaving the woods, and began edging his line forward, seeking to anchor it between Raufheim and the Raufen Copse.
Seeking a swift exit from the bottleneck presented by the River Raufen and the Erlen Woods, Estwold and McAuliffe threw their divisions into the assault.
|The true battle begins.|
Already shaken by the sight of bright steel approaching, the Duke of Brunswick's Brigade of Line took terrible casualties in the charge and broken, its men streaming out of Erlen Woods in a sorry mass of men thinking only of themselves, throwing away weapons in their flight. His Lights did little better against the wrath of the Highland Brigade, but retired in good order to the heart of the forest.
On the road, the slaughter was as shocking as it was great – four thousand casualties were reaped in those few brutal minutes. The 28th Infantry regiment was routed by the Guards, but the 5th British were destroyed and the 8th Brigade thrown back. McAuliffe had succeeded, but Estwold's position was precarious.
Conscious of the heroic defence already presented by his men, Reist threw forward his reserve regiments, and though the Grenz balked at his orders, they strode manfully into the fray. The regulars retired slightly to cover the 28th, and to block the Guards from consolidating their gains. The Ruritanian second line did masterfully well against the 8th Brigade, sending it packing and breaking the will of the British centre. At the same time, the mere threat of a charge by the Brunswick Hussars sent the 2nd Brigade into paroxysms of fear, leading to their annihilation under the flashing blades of German sabres.
Seeing the infantry beginning to crumble, the cavalry now leapt into action. The heavies sprang down upon the exposed Brunswick Hussars, while the Lights sped forth to assault Reist's division. Inspired, the Guards and Highlanders charged his rear line, while the 1st Brigade went deeper into Erlen Woods to seek out the Brunswick Lights, who fled under such determined pursuit.
The Brunswick Hussars fought valiantly, but were destroyed. The irregular grenz could not stand against the British charge, and the landwehr on their flank were undone as well. Even Reist's regulars evaporated before King George's elites, leaving him alone and confused with the rallied remnants of the 28th.
|The British line rallies.|
Seeing what had become of Reist's gallant men, Aache threw caution to the wind and sent his men charging towards the Light Division. While the regular regiments approached head on, his grenz launched a sneak attack against the British right as well. Incensed by Reist's losses and the cowardice of the Brunswickers, the Duke led his cavalry forward as well.
The cuirassiers rode to their devastation, but the dragoons of the Guard brought bitter ruin to their British counterparts, breaking their ranks and sending them fleeing in disorder to the mass of Hussars passing behind them to assault the Light Brigades. That slaughter, that fateful pause disrupted the Hussar advance enough that they broke upon the 1st Light Brigade, although the second was destroyed by the Ruritanian 2-1 Dragoons.
They say the fiercest fighting comes between countrymen, and the King's German Legion proved the truth of that as they battled the 23rd Regiment and sent them packing, both sides licking grievous wounds. The 13th were similarly handled by the 3rd Light Brigade, but the 2nd, barely over the Raufen, was destroyed by the 21st Regiment and the grenz that charged screaming from the forest of Raufen Copse.
Battered by their rough treatment, the British cavalry only moved forward slowly to cover any moves by the remnants of their Ruritanian opposites. The Scots Division moved forward to annihilate Reist's remnants, and the Light Division re-engaged Aache's men.
|The battlelines have thinned.|
Yet again, the redcoats carried all before them, and there, heartbroken, the Duke of Ruritania decided to withdraw in order to save what few of his countrymen he could.
German: 18,500 casualties, 10,000 dead.
British: 12,000 casualties, 5,500 dead.
That battle could have gone either way, but the iron of the Light Division was never going to let anything hold it back. With a Morale of six and shock, there's really no reason not to charge! The fragility of cavalry formations is something I never quite remember when it comes to Napoleonic games, and that was what broke the British cavalry, compared to the larger infantry units.
It was nice to play Volley and Bayonet again after so long with the Too Fat Lardies and 40k – it's a reminder of just how large a game you can get on a 2x2 board with 2mm. I should really get the rest of my Brits and French painted up...
Man of the Match goes to the Highland Brigade for its consistent performance, but there were no real stars in this bloodbath (fun as it was).