Napoleonic Wargame CLub
Newsletter EDITION 04 - November, 1998
Publisher: Pierre Desruisseaux, Secretary of State
Editor : Chris Wattie, 1st KGL Hussars, British Army
The Front Page
NAPOLEONIC ARTILLERY: FIREPOWER COMES OF AGE
By Jim Burbeck
During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars which swept Europe between 1792 and 1815, the small professional armies of the eighteenth century quickly gave way to large national armies composed of draftees. This same period saw artillery transformed from a specialized profession overseen by "mechanics" to a major service branch capable of dominating battlefields. In 1796, the French Army of Italy had 60 artillery pieces to its credit. Sixteen years later, at the battle of Borodino, the artillery for both sides totalled nearly 1,200 guns, which fired an average of 15,000 rounds per HOUR during the course of the day's battle, and that was on a mere two mile front! These wars saw the rise of artillery to a pre-eminent battlefield position. But how was it employed? How did artillery batteries behave on the field of battle and how were they able to function during the confusion of combat?
Artillery pieces used during the eighteenth century were large and clumsy affairs, whose great weight barely allowed their transport over European roads. An army did not even move its own artillery. The cannon were, astonishingly, towed around for the army by civilian "contractors" who avoided actual battlefields as much as possible. It was not unusual for gunners to manhandle, or "prolong" their artillery pieces onto the battlefield. The heavy guns, once in position, did not tend to be moved much during a battle. However, despite these awkward arrangements, most European nations gradually instituted technological improvements in the artillery.
Beginning in the late 1760's, France's artillery park was overhauled by Jean Baptiste Grimbeaval, who standardized all construction and design, resulting in lighter, more manageable cannon and better quality barrels and ammunition. The Russians also designed new artillery at this time, creating the Licorn artillery howitzers, ancestors to today's dual-purpose field pieces. In 1805 they standardized their main gun calibres to just two sizes, a notable departure from that army's otherwise archaic methods. In 1792, Sir William Congreve introduced the block trail to Britain's Royal Artillery. The block trail was another breakthrough for artillery, further lightening the pieces themselves and improving their handling through the efficient design. Most nations at this time also began constructing gun/limber designs which allowed gunners to ride with the guns. Amidst all of these individual breakthroughs; French standardization and professionalism, Russian dual-purpose guns, and British carriage designs, the Napoleonic Wars saw the deployment of all the basic features of modern artillery.
After 1800 the French artillery service doubtlessly benefitted from the fact Napoleon Bonaparte was by training an artillery officer and mathematician. This, combined with the sweeping technological and organizational changes begun before the French Revolution assured that the French artillery service was the state-of-the-art for their time. These changes improved the morale of the artillery arm, which already had a long tradition of professionalism. The end result was more aggressive battlefield tactics and ensuing success which ushered artillery away from a supporting position into a destructive role all its own.
The six pounder artillery piece shown at left is typical of designs of the late eighteenth century. Reducing the gap between the cannonball and barrel (or windage) allowed a reduction in barrel mass previous models. This, coupled with the use of bronze for the barrel itself allowed for a far lighter carriage assembly for the gun. Half the weight of their predecessors, these field pieces enabled turn of the century gunners to manoeuvre their companies in ways scarcely conceivable thirty years before.
Unlimbering time was usually less than one minute, and most guns carried a ready supply of ammunition in small "trail chests" carried just behind the barrel. Below is shown the artillery piece in its "travelling" position; The bronze barrel slid into the lower set of trunnion cut-outs, moving the piece's centre of gravity toward the middle of the limbered assembly. This allowed the gun teams to move over uneven ground with less chance of overturned guns and other accidents.
The positioning of artillery was of the utmost importance. While common sense may say that high ground is always the best place from which to fire, this was not the case at this time. Artillery usually fired iron balls, called roundshot or just "shot", which was most effective when fired at a level trajectory about chest high. If allowed to pass straight through ranks of men, the shot could cause enormous destruction. Ultimately the ball would bounce several times and begin rolling, still capable of tearing off feet or breaking ankles. If fired from high ground or on a steep trajectory, the shot would hit the ground at such an angle that even if it hit anyone, the "bounce zone" would be much shorter. So an artillerist would usually look for areas of flat, hard, open ground, devoid of obstacles or irregularities. One benefit of high ground would have been the slow approach it forced on attacking units. Artillery stationed on high ground was (if time allowed) placed behind makeshift redoubts and issued plenty of shotgun-like canister rounds (usually called case) to use against enemy units as they toiled upslope.
One problem with the selection of targets was battlefield smoke and identifying friend and foe. Again, drawing from eyewitness accounts, a period artillery battery apparently could not tell the difference between friendly and enemy troops as close as 800 yards if the two were "mixing it up" in close combat, despite the theoretical maximum range of 1,500 yards for medium guns. Once they did begin firing, the artillery would likely continue firing even though the smoke prevented their seeing what lay to their front. So the picture painted is an image of massive confusion which could only be avoided through coolness of thought and the powers of observation on the field.
The effects of Napoleonic artillery fire on humans could be terrifying: artillery roundshot was virtually guaranteed to cause dramatic and gory casualties. The cannonballs themselves were subsonic, and
lobbed slowly through the air, loudly whistling as they approached. Even at the end of its effective range, rolling shot would bowl men over, breaking ankles and tearing off feet. If they hit a horse, it was not just a matter of the horse falling over; the ball might strike the saddlebags, scattering the contents in every direction as the horse went spinning, splattering pieces of the animal closely behind the chunks of leather and cloth.. At close range, artillery fire would punch holes straight through entire sections of units. During the battle of Waterloo, British artillery fired "doubleshot" charges (One charge of cannister backed up by a round of shot) at point blank range into advancing French heavy cavalry. In one case,
the entire front rank of cavalry was taken down, stopping the assault only because none of the following cavalry could make their way over the heaving pile of men and horses to their front! The cuirass below belonged to Antoine Faveau, a Carabinier trooper killed at Waterloo. The photograph explains itself, the main feature being the cannonball hole punched completely through both front and back sections of the steel cuirass!
Another feature of the battlefield was damage to the artillery batteries themselves. When people hear the word "damaged" they think of dead men and damaged guns, neither of which prevent the rest of the survivors from moving on. However, a battery with a third of its horses killed could be totally immobilized. Again taking Mercer's example, 140 of his battery's 200 horses were killed at their final deployment point. He noted that all of these dead horses had to be freed from the harnesses before the living horses could be re-grouped into effective teams. So a battery could easily lose its mobility by horse power as well as receiving damage to the cannon and crew.
The turn of the nineteenth century saw artillery used in ways which presupposed the Post-Industrial Revolution use of big guns. The battle of Borodino was so notable for its use of firepower, a Russian messenger noted that in his crossing of the battlefield, he had to keep his mouth open in order to stabilize the pressure from the firing of the guns. Starting with this period, the military world was to become steadily more familiar with the phenomenon of so many guns firing at once that everything turned into a never-ending, high pressure rumble.
Reprinted courtesy of The War Times Journal. All rights reserved.
For the full article and more writing on Napoleonic subjects and military history check out their web site at: http://www.wtj.com/pl/pages/napolna.htm
Artillery reproductions and Antoine Faveau's cuirass courtesy of the French Army Musem, Paris.
SURVIVING TO BECOME CZAR: Power Politics in Mother Russia
By Gary D. Shively
4eme Bavarian Ligne
Armee du Rhine VIII
Being born as the Grand Duke was no guarantee of survival for the next Czar of all the Russias. Along with the host of other hazards such as pre-20th century illnesses and plagues, a prospective Czar had to be able to cope with potentially murderous relatives and the ever-power-hungry Boyars.
The Boyars were the ruling body who worked under the Czar in governing the Worlds largest nation. Their friendship and protection would be needed if the young man hoped to reach the throne. Shortly after the death of the reigning Czar was their preferred time to carry out a coup detat. If they had the support of the Czarina, they would prove deadly.
The reigning Czar could also prove to be fatal. Ivan IV (The Terrible) in a fit of madness possibly brought on by lead poisoning struck own his eldest son with an iron rod. Peter I (The Great) captured his effeminate son who was trying to flee the country and had him court-martialled. Although the Boyars tried to prevent it, Peter had him broken on the wheel. He succumbed to the torture.
Czar Peter III, a sickly Prussophile had the misfortune to run afoul of the Czarina and the Boyars. After making the unpopular decision to end the war with Frederick the Great's Prussia, he was assassinated and replaced by his German born wife who was to be remembered as Catherine the Great.
Her son, Czar Paul I, another Prussophile never in the best health was locked up in prison. His frail constitution ensured it wasn't a long imprisonment. His son and successor, Alexander I, the Czarina, and the Boyars are all implicated in the plot.
The most common first step in assuring the continuance of a new Czars reign was to send his mother of to a convent shortly after coronation. From here she could cause very few problems. The condition of the Russian court was known widely throughout Europe. Upon hearing that his new ally Peter III had died of a "gastric disorder", Frederick the Great remarked "It is not difficult to guess what kind of seizure this must have been!". So much for insurance for the would-be Czar in Europe's most autocratic nation.
WATERLOO LANDMARK UNDER THREAT
By Bob Elmer,
Journal of the Association of Friends of the Waterloo Committee
At the time of the battle, Waterloo was a tiny village. The battlefield itself was at Mont Saint-Jean, a considerable distance south of the village. Today, nearly two hundred years on, Waterloo is quite a large town reaching almost to the battlefield, with a correspondingly large population wanting to expand and exploit their resources to the fullest.
This expansion has led to a great many changes around the battlefield. La Belle Alliance, where Napoleon stood for much of the battle, is now a discotheque. The tower of Mont St. Jean farm has been demolished.
Immediately after the 1995 re-enactment of the battle, several large areas of the battlefield were sold at much higher prices than are usual for local farmland, with no intervention whatsoever by the Royal Commission of Monuments and Sites, one of whose roles is to protect the battlefield.
There have even been proposals for turning the battlefield into a Disney-style theme park, with little trains carrying sight-seers all over the battlefield. Remarks by Mayor Kubla reported in the local press have tended to indicate his support for such plans.
So further threats to the battlefield and its related buildings must be taken seriously.
Château Tremblant is the latest important landmark to come under threat. Château Tremblant is the name now commonly given to Waterloo Cottage, the three-storey house used by Lord Uxbridge as his headquarters on the night before Waterloo. It was here that, without the aid of any anesthetic, his leg was amputated on the evening after the battle and buried in the garden.
The Château stands next to the Church of Saint-Joseph, just across the road from what was Wellington's headquarters in the centre of Waterloo, the building that is now the Wellington Museum.
The owner of the Château has an invalid son, and reputedly he wishes to provide for him by selling the land for redevelopment after having the house demolished.
For some time now this historically important house has been in a worsening state of decay, which tends to justify the idea of demolition.
Now, a property developer with a conscience, Fred Prichard, a member of the Association of Friends of the Waterloo Committee and Managing Director of the Prichard Group, based in Staffordshire, England, has proposed an approach which would save the house for posterity. Briefly, his proposal is
Restore the fabric of the Château;
Retain the ground floor as a study centre and museum to the role of Lord Uxbridge; Convert the upper floors of the Château Tremblant into rental apartments; Build three terraces of 14 modern town houses in the grounds of the house, for sale or rent.
Whilst we may prefer to see the house and garden restored and maintained as it was in 1815, we must accept that we now live in a 'user-pay' world. This proposal has the merit that it should meet the requirements of the present owner, whilst avoiding the house being lost for all time. The scheme already has the moral support of His Grace the Duke of Wellington among others.
Waterloo is a world heritage site: it was not just another battle; it was an event that totally changed
the course of European history. Many of the ordinary people of Waterloo see this. But some, including some politicians, appear to place our history a poor second to their commercial interests.
Waterloo belongs to the World
The forces of his Britannic Majesty George III continue to grow. We have welcomed enough recruits to form a new division, under the command of Lt. Jane Weightman of the Inniskilling Dragoons, and are adding to our activity with more British officers recording more games in progress. And while we may be the smallest of the armies opposing the Corsican Tyrant, we aim to become the most feared: our regimental battle honours boast a record of six victories in fights with the French with only two defeats and a pair of draws. I look forward to adding to the Armys spoils: my divisional commanders advise me that a number of battles now being fought by our gallant officers are looking very promising indeed! Special congratulations to Lt. Weightman and Lt. Daniel Tansley for their first victories: the first of many we are sure.
I have only recently been accorded the honour of taking command of the army from Maj. Simon Patrick, who was forced to step down due to the demands of keeping up his extensive estates at home. Army Aide du Camp Maj. Chris Wattie and Adjutant Maj. Andrew Flynn have been invaluable in assisting me in taking command of the army and re-organizing its divisions. Maj. Flynn has recently redesigned the army web page in fine fashion.
Our Cavalry and 4th Divisions have also instituted the first of what I hope will be many army manoeuvres. Good luck to Lts. Cox, Danel, and Bennett: With the notoriously cunning Maj. Wattie and the famously aggressive "Mad Dog" Flynn as opponents, youll need it!
God Save the King!
British Army C.O.
Armee du Nord
As I have been engaged in a bloody battle with Generals Microsoft & Dell (my system went down at the start of the month) there is only time to jot down a quick dispatch due to my 'active front-line' service.
The main news from the Armee du Nord is that Maj. Salvador Alemany has moved on to better things: command of the Imperial Guard no less. His former post as C.O. of III Corps will be filled in November although no one seems eager to fill Salvadors large boots!
I Corps has just completed a newly designed web page, linked to the main army page.
I am not going to give out medals like 'sweetmeats' & have asked my ADC to look into those officers who are deserving - this will take place in Nov. We have also signed up a large number of new blood too many to list in fact. Welcome all.
Col. Stewart Macintyre
LArmee du Nord
I am still deciding on which deserving officers will receive medals this month, but am pleased to announce that Carlos Nalda was promoted to 1st Lt, and John Underwood to Captain. Congratulations as well to Lt. Nalda for a victory this month.
I would also like to thank Paul Cramer for helping me so much over the month. New recruits to the Imperial Russian Army are advised to contact him.
Front And Centre
French: None reported.
British: Military Medal to Lt. Jane Weightman, Inniskilling Dragoons; Lt. Daniel Tansley, 27th Regt. "Inniskilling Fusiliers"; Maj. Andrew Flynn, 23rd Regt. Royal Welsh Fusiliers; and Lt. Colin Gaskell, 4th Regt, "The Royal Lancaster - King's Own."
Military Merit Cross to Maj. Simon Patrick, for his valued services to the entire Army.
Russian: None reported.
Prussian: None reported.
French: Maj. Salvadore Alemany named first commander of the Imperial Guard.
Soldats du Premier Empire et l'Armee du Rhine!
The following officers are herewith promoted to the following ranks and
shall enjoy all privilages and pay associated with.
Major Michael Phillips. Promoted to Lt. Colonel.
Captain Joe Gregory. Promoted to Major.
Captain Toni Andreasson. Promoted to Major.
Captain Ray Panfil. Promoted to Major.
Lt. Brett Trevalyn. Promoted to Captain.
Captain Gary Shively. Promoted to Major.
Congratulations to these officers. Major Brewitt extends his warmest
congratulations to these officers and those recognized for exlemplorary
On behalf of Major Jon Brewitt, it is with great pride, that the following
medals are awarded.
To Major Gary Shively, the Medaille Militaire is hereby presented in
recognition of his victory at Waterloo over the allied forces.
To Lt. Jerome Lavis, The Order of the Iron Crown for outstanding performance
in a training game. Congratulations.
To Major Jon Brewitt, exlemporary conduct as an officer of the Empire and in
recognition of his service to La Grande Armee. The Legion d'Honneur,
presented on behalf of the Emperor. Congratulations.
British: Andrew Flynn, 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers, to Major. Thomas Curry, 1st Division commander, to Captain.
Russian: Carlos Nalda to 1st Lieutenant. John Underwood to Captain.
The Prussian Army has added two new members in Ocober. We would like
to formally welcome Lille Lewinsky and Heidar Karlsson to our ranks.
Thanks for joining our fine fighting force!
We also would like to announce the winners of the Military Medal (for
winning at least one victory over a French club member):
Jim Dobbins, Mike Gjerde Steve Eck, Alex Brandsma
I also have been found elgible for this medal after having won two
engagements over the French. Our top commander is Mike Gjerde who has
won decisive victories in three occaisions! Two were at Borodino and one
was at Ligny and Quatra Bras.
Capt. Gjerde (soon to be Major) is making a regular diet of French
Other individuals who should be cited are Thilo Schneider for
submitting unit histories for all of our regiments. You will soon be
seeing these on our I Corps web page!
Mauro Crestini deserves the Research Award (not a club merit mind you)
for taking digital pictures for me at the battlefield near Sacile, Italy
near where he lives. I was receiving pictures via his laptop and modem
as he was taking them! Quite exciting for my work on 1809 which will in
turn supply us with more games to play than you can imagine!
A compilation of game-over figures by an officer of our acquaintance (who shall remain nameless but who clearly has too much time on his hands) suggests that despite the preponderance of French members in the club, we have achieved an admirable parity in game results.
Of 124 games registered since the club began, 66 have been completed. The Allies prevailed in 28 of these games (20 major victories and 8 minor victories) while the French won 29 (24 major, 5 minor). Nine games ended in draws.
When training games are factored out, the results do not change significantly: Of 32 multi-player or head-to-head fights completed, the Allies won 13 (11 Major; 2 Minor) and the French won 14 (all Major victories).
How's that for balanced play? On to this months game news:
Maj. Salvador Alemany, newly minted commandant of the Imperial Guard, seems determined to single-handedly fight the entire Allied membership of the club. The good major suffered a loss to Michael Gjerde in PTW 24, but bounced back with a major victory over John Underwood in NiR 7 and another major win over Anders Danell of the British 12th Light Dragoons.
But new British 2nd Division commander Lt. Jane Weightman earned a major victory over Alemany to even the tally.
Lt. Daniel Tansley, another rookie British officer, handed Michael Hoener a major defeat in PTW 3.
La Grande Armee Big Cheese Lt.-Col. Steve Peluso and Head Prussian Bill Peters fought to a standstill in NiR while L'Armee Nord commander Col. Stewart MacIntyre earned a major victory over
Allen Torgerson in NiR 10.
Brian Keerie, pride of the Westphalian Hussars, went down to a major defeat at the hands of Russian stalwart Carlos Nalda.
VIII Corps commander Capt. Gary Shively denied British Army adjutant Maj. Andrew Flynn his first victory by earning a major French win in BGW 12, a game in which the two wily commanders managed to simultaneously turn each others right flanks.
Andrew Bennett, British
Jonathon Paul, British
John Cameron, British
Also some French, Russian and Prussian chaps
Strategy & Tactics
ARTILLERY AMMO: What Gives?
By John Tiller
The current design is based on one point of ammunition for each time a battery fires. There is a common pool for each side (or each nation of a side) not including ammunition associated with batteries
scheduled as reinforcements. Batteries which arrive as reinforcements contribute towards the pool based on a number which is part of the parameter data for that scenario.
The main goal of any artillery supply system is to prevent artillery batteries from being able to fire each opportunity and to place the commander in a situation of having to decide priorities in the use of artillery batteries.
From this perspective, the amount of artillery ammo set for a given side in a scenario is based on two factors: historical accounts, and rough calculations of the number of batteries and the number of turns. The resulting value should support a certain number of firings by artillery batteries during the battle.
Important note: even in situations where it is true, or can be argued, that one side or the other had more
artillery ammunition than is available in the scenario, it should not necessarily be the case that you want to change the ammo level for that battle.
The point here is that each battle generally represents only one battle of a campaign. In that situation, each side could not be sure of their future ammunition requirements and so would not fire all
their rounds even if they had them. So again, the point of artillery ammunition is to motivate the conservation of artillery fire.
How could the system be improved? Well obviously the ammo could be in terms of single guns instead of batteries. Also there could be better representation of an ammo train so that the location of a battery could have an influence on its ability to be resupplied.
PROF. CLAUSEWITZ HAS VALUABLE LESSONS FOR BG GAMERS
By Capt. Francisco Palomo
Armee du Nord I
At least for myself, the chief attraction of the Napoleonic Battleground series is that it manages to incorporate the salient aspects of warfare in this period in an elegant, simple and easy to learn game system.
I will grant that it is not a perfect "simulation" of Napoleonic warfare. Many, including this author, have frequently pointed out some of the many errors in the order of battle and deployment of each of the games. Many have also criticized some of the basic design decisions of the system itself, e.g. cavalry can "bushwack" artillery by charging from a reverse slope position. Nonetheless, it is the finest, overall, computer simulation of this period of warfare. Furthermore, the enjoyable, balanced nature of most of the games has drawn many new players to this fascinating period of European warfare.
But a number of people new to the BG series have floundered in the early stages of gaming in the absence of some general guidelines on what to do when they actually start playing. Clausewitzs principles give a general overview of what to do in a typical Napoleonic encounter, and as a general set of tactical guidelines they have held up admirably through the ages.
The proof, for myself, of the overall soundness of the BG game system is the extent to which Clausewitzs words of wisdom in his classic treatise, On War, are equally apt to the electronic battlefield created by the BG series.
The full text of Clausewitzs "Principles Governing the Use of Troops" is appended. I trust the membership will find it instructive:
Principles Governing the Use of Troops
1. If we cannot dispense with firearms (and if we could, why should we bring them along?), we must use them to open combat. Cavalry must not be used before the enemy has suffered considerably from our infantry and artillery. From this it follows:
(a) That we must place the cavalry behind the infantry. That we must not be easily led to use it in opening combat. Only when the enemy's disorder or his rapid retreat offer the hope of success, should we use our cavalry for an audacious attack.
2. Artillery fire is much more effective than that of infantry. A battery of eight six-pounders takes up less than one-third of the front taken up by an infantry battalion; it has less than one-eighth the men of a battalion, and yet its fire is two to three times as effective. On the other hand, artillery has the disadvantage of being less mobile than infantry. This is true, on the whole, even of the lightest horse artillery, for it cannot, like infantry, be used in any kind of terrain. It is necessary, therefore, to direct the artillery from the start against the most important points, since it cannot, like infantry, concentrate against these points as the battle progresses. A large battery of 20 to 30 pieces usually decides the battle for that section where it is placed.
3. From these and other apparent characteristics the following rules can be drawn for the use of the different arms:
(a) We should begin combat with the larger part of our artillery. Only when we have large masses of troops at our disposal should we keep horse and foot-artillery in reserve. We should use artillery in great batteries massed against one point. Twenty to thirty pieces combined into one battery defend the chief part of our line, or shell that part of the enemy position which we plan to attack.
(b) After this we use light infantry either marksmen, riflemen, or fusiliers being careful not to put too many forces into play at the beginning. We try first to discover what lies ahead of us (for we can seldom see that clearly in advance), and which way the battle is turning, etc.
If this firing line is sufficient to counteract the enemy's troops, and if there is no need to hurry, we should do wrong to hasten the use of our remaining forces. We must try to exhaust the enemy as much as possible with this preliminary skirmish.
(c) If the enemy should lead so many troops into combat that our firing line is about to fall back, or if for some other reason we should no longer hesitate, we must draw up a full line of infantry. This will deploy between 100 and 200 paces from the enemy and will fire or charge, as matters may be.
(d) This is the main purpose of the infantry. If, at the same time, the battle-array is deep enough, leaving us another line of infantry (arranged in columns) as reserve, we shall be sufficiently master of the situation at this sector. This second line of infantry should, if possible, be used only in columns to bring about a decision.
(e) The cavalry should be as close behind the fighting troops during battle as is possible without great loss; that is, it should be out of the enemy's grapeshot or musket fire. On the other hand, it should be close enough to take quick advantage of any favourable turn of battle.
4. In obeying these rules more or less closely, we should never lose sight of the following principle, which I cannot stress enough:
Never bring all our forces into play haphazardly and at one time, thereby losing all means of directing the battle; but fatigue the opponent, if possible, with few forces and conserve a decisive mass for the critical moment. Once this decisive mass has been thrown in, it must be used with the greatest audacity.
5. We should establish one battle-order (the arrangement of troops before and during combat) for the whole campaign or the whole war. This order will serve in all cases when there is no time for a special disposition of troops. It should, therefore, be calculated primarily for the defensive. This battle-array will introduce a certain uniformity into the fighting method of the army, which will be useful and advantageous. For it is inevitable that a large part of the lower generals and other officers at
the head of small contingents have no special knowledge of tactics and perhaps no outstanding aptitude for the conduct of war.
Thus there arises a certain methodism in warfare to take the place of art, wherever the latter is absent. In my opinion this is to the highest degree the case in the French armies.
7. The army consists of several such independent corps, which have their own general and staff. They are drawn up in line and behind each other, as described in the general rules for combat. It should be observed at this point that, unless we are very weak in cavalry, we should create a special cavalry reserve, which, of course, is kept in the rear. Its purpose is as follows:
(a) To fall upon the enemy when he is retreating from the field of battle and to attack the cavalry which he uses to cover up his retreat. Should we defeat the enemy's cavalry at this moment, great successes are inevitable, unless the enemy's infantry would perform miracles of bravery . Small detachments of cavalry would not accomplish this purpose.
(b) To pursue the enemy more rapidly, if he should be retreating unbeaten or if he should continue to retreat the day after a lost battle. Cavalry moves faster than infantry and has a more demoralizing effect on the retreating troops. Next to victory, the act of pursuit is most important in war.
(c) To execute a great (strategic) turning move, should we need, because of the detour, a branch of the army which moves more rapidly than the infantry.
In order to make this corps more independent, we should attach a considerable mass of horse artillery; for a combination of several types of arms can only give greater strength.
8. The battle-order of troops described thus far was intended for combat; it was the formation of troops for battle.
The order of march is essentially as follows:
(a) Each independent corps (whether brigade or division) has its own advanced- and rear-guard and forms its own column. That, however, does not prevent several corps from marching one behind the other on the same road, and thus, as it were, forming a single column.
The corps march according to their position in the general formation of battle. They march beside or behind each other, just as they would stand on the battlefield.
In the corps themselves the following order is invariably observed: the light infantry, with the addition of one regiment of cavalry, forming the advanced and rear-guard, then the infantry, the artillery, and last the remaining cavalry.
This order stands, whether we are moving against the enemy in which case it is the natural order or parallel with him. In the latter case we should assume that those troops which in the battle formation were behind each other should march side by side. But when we have to draw up the troops for battle, there will always be sufficient time to move the cavalry and the second line of infantry either to the right or left.
4. Principles For The Use Of Terrain
1. The terrain (the ground or country) offers two advantages in warfare. The first is that it presents obstacles to the enemy's approach. These either make his advance impossible at a given point, or force him to march more slowly and to maintain his formation in columns, etc. The second advantage is that obstacles in the terrain enable us to place our troops under cover.
Although both advantages are very important, I think the second more important than the first. In any event, it is certain that we profit from it more frequently, since in most cases even the simplest terrain permits us to place ourselves more or less under cover. Formerly only the first of these advantages was known and the second was rarely used. But today the greater mobility of all armies has led us to use the former less frequently, and therefore the latter more frequently. The first of these two advantages is useful for defence alone, the second for both offence and defence.
2. The terrain as an obstacle to approach serves chiefly to support our flank, and to strengthen our front.
3. To support our flank it must be absolutely impassable, such as a large river, a lake, an impenetrable morass. These obstacles, however, are very rare, and a complete protection of our flank is, therefore, hard to find. It is rarer today than ever before, since we do not stay in one position very long, but move about a great deal. Consequently we need more positions in the theatre of war.
An obstacle to approach which is not wholly impassable is really no point d'appui for our flank, but only a reinforcement. In that case troops must be drawn up behind it, and for them in turn it becomes an obstacle to approach.
Yet it is always advantageous to secure our flank in this way, for then we shall need fewer troops at this point. But we must beware of two things: first, of relying so completely on this protection that we do not keep a strong reserve in the rear; second, of surrounding ourselves on both flanks with such obstacles, for, since they do not protect us completely, they do not always prevent fighting on our flanks. They are, therefore, highly detrimental to our defence, for they do not permit us to engage easily in active defence on either wing. We shall be reduced to defence under the most disadvantageous conditions, with both flanks thrown back.
4. The observations just made furnish new arguments for the formation in depth. The less we can find secure support for our flanks, the more corps we must have in he rear to envelop those troops of the enemy which are surrounding us.
5. All kinds of terrain, which cannot be passed by troops marching in line, all villages, all enclosures surrounded by hedges or ditches, marshy meadows, finally all mountains which are crossed only with difficulty, constitute obstacles of this kind. We can pass them, but only slowly and with effort. They increase, therefore, the power of resistance of troops drawn up behind them. Forests are to be included only if they are thickly wooded and marshy. An ordinary timber-forest can be assed as easily as a plain. But we must not overlook the fact that a forest may hide the enemy. If we conceal ourselves in it, this disadvantage affects both sides. But t is very dangerous, and thus a grave mistake, to leave forests on our front or flank unoccupied, unless the forest can be traversed only by a few paths. Barricades
built as obstacles are of little help, since they can easily be removed.
6. From all this it follows that we should use such obstacles on one flank to put up a relatively strong resistance with few troops, while executing our planned ffensive on the other flank. It is very advantageous to combine the use of entrenchments with such natural obstacles, because then, if the enemy should pass the obstacle, the fire from these entrenchments will protect our weak troops against too great superiority and sudden rout.
7. When we are defending ourselves, any obstacle on our front is of great value. Mountains are occupied only for this reason. For an elevated position seldom has any important influence, often none at all, on the effectiveness of arms. But if we stand on a height, the enemy, in order to approach us, must climb laboriously. He will advance but slowly, become separated, and arrive with his forces exhausted.
Given equal bravery and strength, these advantages may be decisive. On no account should we overlook the moral effect of a rapid, running assault. It hardens the advancing soldier against danger, while the stationary soldier loses his presence of mind. It is, therefore, always very advantageous to put our first line of infantry and artillery upon a mountain.
Often the grade of the mountain is so steep, or its slope so undulating and uneven, that it cannot be effectively swept by gunfire. In that case we should not place our first line, but at the most only our sharp-shooters, at the edge of the mountain. Our full line we should place in such a way that the enemy is subject to its most effective fire the moment he reaches the top and reassembles his forces.
All other obstacles to approach, such as small rivers, brooks, ravines, etc., serve to break the enemy's front. He will have to re-form his lines after passing them and thus will be delayed. These obstacles must, therefore, be placed under our most effective fire, which is grape-shot (400 to 600 paces), if we have a great deal of artillery or musket-shot (150 to 200 paces), if we have little artillery at this point.
8. It is, therefore, a basic law to place all obstacles to approach, which are to strengthen our front, under our most effective fire. But it is important to notice that we must never completely limit our resistance to this fire but must hold ready for a bayonet-charge an important part of our troops (1/3 to 1/2) organized into columns.
Should we be very weak, therefore, we must place only our firing line, composed of riflemen and artillery, close enough to keep the obstacle under fire. The rest of our troops, organized into columns, we should keep 600 to 800 paces back, if possible under cover.
9. Another method of using these obstacles to protect our front is to leave them a short distance ahead. They are thus within the effective range of our cannon (1000 to 2000 paces) and we can attack the enemy's columns from all sides, as they emerge.
10. Thus far we have considered the obstacles of the ground and country primarily as connected lines related to extended positions. It is still necessary to say something about isolated points.
On the whole we can defend single, isolated points only by entrenchments or strong obstacles of terrain. We shall not discuss the first here. The only obstacles of terrain which can be held by themselves are:
(a) Isolated, steep heights.
Here entrenchments are likewise indispensable; for the enemy can always move against the defender with a more or less extended front. And the latter will always end up by being taken from the rear, since one is rarely strong enough to make front towards all sides.
(b) Defiles. By this term we mean any narrow path, through which the enemy can advance only against one point. Bridges, dams, and steep ravines belong here.
We should observe that these obstacles fall into two categories: either the aggressor can in no way avoid them, as for example bridges across large rivers, in which case the defender can boldly draw up his whole force so as to fire upon the point of crossing as effectively as possible. Or we are not absolutely sure that the enemy cannot turn the obstacle, as with bridges across small streams and most mountain defiles. In that case it is necessary to reserve a considerable part of our troops 1/3 to 1/2 for an attack in close order.
(c) Localities, villages, small towns, etc. With very brave troops, who fight enthusiastically, houses offer a unique defence for few against many. But, if we are not sure of the individual soldier, it is preferable
to occupy the houses, gardens, etc., only with sharp-shooters and the entrances to the village with cannons. The greater part of our troops (1/2 to 3/4) we should keep in close columns and hidden in the locality or behind it, so as to fall upon the enemy while he is invading.
11. These isolated posts serve in large operations partly as outposts, in which case they serve not as absolute defence but only as a delay to the enemy, and partly to hold points which are important for the combinations we have planned for our army. Also it is often necessary to hold on to a remote point in order to gain time for the development of active measures of defence which we may have planned. But, if a point is remote, it is ipso facto isolated.
12. Two more observations about isolated obstacles are necessary. The first is that we must keep troops ready behind them to receive detachments that have been thrown back. The second is that whoever includes such isolated obstacles in his defensive combinations should never count on them too much, no matter how strong the obstacle may be. On the other hand, the military leader to whom the defence of the obstacle has been entrusted must always try to hold out, even under the most adverse circumstances. For this there is needed a spirit of determination and self-sacrifice, which finds its source only in ambition and enthusiasm. We must, therefore, choose men for this mission who are not lacking in these noble qualities.
13. Using terrain to cover the disposition and advance of troops needs no detailed exposition. We should not occupy the crest of the mountain which we intend to defend (as has been done so frequently in the past) but draw up behind it. We should not take our position in front of a forest, but inside or behind it; the latter only if we are able to survey the forest or thicket. We should keep our troops in columns, so as to find cover more easily. We must make use of villages, small thickets, and rolling terrain to hide our troops. For our advance we should choose the most intersected country, etc.
In cultivated country, which can be reconnoitered so easily, there is almost no region that can not hide a large part of the defender's troops if they have made clever use of obstacles. To cover the aggressor's advance is more difficult, since he must follow the roads.
It goes without saying that in using the terrain to hide our troops, we must never lose sight of the goal and combinations we have set for ourselves. Above all things we should not break up our battle order completely, even though we may deviate slightly from it.
14. If we recapitulate what has been said about terrain, the following appears most important for the defender, i.e., for the choice of positions:
(a) Support of one or both flanks.
(b) Open view on front and flanks.
(c) Obstacles to approach on the front.
(d) Masked disposition of troops. And finally
(e) Intersected country in the rear, to render pursuit more difficult in case of defeat. But no defiles too near, since they cause delay and confusion.
15. It would be pedantic to believe that all these advantages could be found in any position we may take up during a war. Not all positions are of equal importance: the most important are those in which we most likely may be attacked. It is here that we should try to have all these advantages, while in others we only need part.
16. The two main points which the aggressor should consider in regard to the choice of terrain are not to select too difficult a terrain for the attack, but on the other hand to advance, if possible, through a terrain in which the enemy can least survey our force.
17. I close these observations with a principle which is of highest significance, and which must be considered the keystone of the whole defensive theory:
NEVER TO DEPEND COMPLETELY ON THE STRENGTH OF THE TERRAIN AND CONSEQUENTLY NEVER TO BE ENTICED INTO PASSIVE
DEFENCE BY A STRONG TERRAIN.
For if the terrain is really so strong that the aggressor cannot possibly expel us, he will turn it, which is always possible, and thus render the strongest terrain useless. We shall be forced into battle under very different circumstances, and in a completely different terrain, and we might as well not have included the first terrain in our plans. But if the terrain is not so strong, and if an attack within its confines is still possible, its advantages can never make up for the disadvantages of passive defence.
All obstacles are useful, therefore, only for partial defence, in order that we may put up a relatively strong resistance with few troops and gain time for the offensive, through which we try to win a real victory elsewhere.
New Scenarios and Updates
NEW AND IMPROVED 32-BIT UPGRADES NOW AVAILABLE
Now all Civil War and Napoleonic Battleground games have 32-bit upgrades. The benefits of these are: Direct Play supporting network and other play modes, Direct Sound resulting in sound mixing of background and combat sounds, rule improvements including Auto Defensive Fire for PBEM in the Civil War series. John Tiller Link to upgrades:Main Program
The winner of last months trivia quiz is Maj. Andrew Flynn, British Army Adjutant, who correctly identified Napoleons horse at the Battle of Waterloo as a white Arab named Desiree. To all the officers who answered Marengo close but no cigar. Five points to Maj. Flynn.
This months poser:
Who started the fires that consumed so much of Moscow shortly after Napoleons arrival in the Russian capitol and on whose orders did he set them?
5 points to the first correct answer e-mailed to the editor at email@example.com
An update on the NiR fall tourney; News from the front and fistsful of promotions and medals from HQ; More tips and tactical dos and donts.
Submissions to the newsletter are always welcome. Questions, comments, notices of lawsuits or challenges to duels as a result of contents of this newsletter should be addressed to the editor: Maj. Chris Wattie firstname.lastname@example.org.