We leave Grazzbenn with Napoleon and his battered force withdrawing under cover of darkness. This was his first defeat of the campaign, and aside from setbacks in the south, the French had enjoyed almost universal success.
Although the French withdrew in good order I awarded the Prussians a decisive victory which impacts returning casualties. The French were resoundingly defeated with almost universal underperformance in stark contrast to the Prussian cavalry in particular who occasionally excelled themselves.
I will detail casualties shortly but first will highlight the performance of one individual unit. The Prussian 6th Uhlans. They had arrived as part of von Ziethen’s 1st Corps reinforcements in Lutzow II’s 2nd Cavalry Brigade. It was turn 27 when they first made their presence felt. Having negotiated their way through the great mass of advancing Prussian columns they were joined by Lutzow who lead a charge on an unprepared French infantry battalion still in line formation.
Having almost wiped out that battalion they routed or forced to retreat 3 more infantry battalions in quick succession adding to the mayhem among the 2nd Corps as the panicked troops piled into the various tightly packed units in an attempt to escape. Their attention was then drawn to the approaching French cavalry of Pire’s Division. Lutzow lead the 6th Uhlans in immediate charges against that division successfully causing 3 of the 4 French cavalry regiments to flee the field. The last Chasseur regiment also fled but successfully rallied later. This removed any possibility of the French holding the line or counter-attacking in any meaningful way.
The total cost to the 6th Uhlans? Just 3 of their initial 13 figures, one of which returned post battle. This is one of the most outstanding performances of any unit in the campaign so far. They did not fail a single morale check. Normally when any unit goes above and beyond they are awarded an upgrade in their quality. In this particular instance I have for the first time given a unit a double upgrade taking it from line to elite! Lutzow will also be upgraded to excellent from average.
The 6th Uhlans at the start of their rampage.
Turning to the battle, the French needed to capture Grazzbenn prior to the arrival of von Ziethen. This would have allowed them to concentrate all their force on the Prussian right flank and reinforcements, boxing off the fortification until later.
It took the Imperial Guard infantry longer than anticipated to turn the Prussian left flank. A combination of rough terrain slowing movement and a more stubborn Prussian defence than anticipated. The Middle Guard in particular took heavy casualties.
All was not lost though as on paper, Kellerman’s heavy cavalry corps with the Imperial Guard heavy cavalry should have swept away the much lighter and lower quality Prussian cavalry holding their centre, east of Grazzbenn. This would have allowed the Guard infantry to have a clear run at Grazzbenn.
The Prussians though were not so compliant! Although eventually successful, the French cavalry suffered a mauling by the aggressive Prussian defenders delaying considerably their target. This was further compounded by Prussian cavalry threatening the left flank of 3rd Corps south of Grazzbenn. Initially Piquet’s Brigade of 2 dragoon regiments were tasked with dealing with the threat. Their performance was appalling being turned over easily by the Prussian cavalry. It took the intervention of Blancard’s elite Carabiniers brigade to stabilise the flank taking them away from the centre. The Carabiniers were the only French cavalry regiments to end the day with any credit.
The arrival of von Ziethen and the Prussian right flank launching their attacks signalled the turning point in the battle. Jerome Napoleon’s 6th Division collapsed in the face of the Prussian right flank attack. Their units fell back into the rest of 2nd Corps’ units creating chaos as von Ziethen’s huge columns rolled into them. This set the scene for the 6th Uhlans to do their stuff!
Pulling the 3rd Corps back to support the 2nd Corps proved futile as by now it was clear the game was over for the French. It would now be a case of attempting to conserve as many of their units as possible, and thus the retreat commenced along the sunken road south. A final humiliation awaited the Guard cavalry who were defeated by Treskow’s regiments, again against the odds! It was only darkness that saved the French from potentially catastrophic losses.
Prussians; 429, recovered 129, total loss 300, or 10% of their total.
French; 579, recovered 135. total loss of 444, or 20% of their total.
The Prussian losses were broadly spread although the battalions holding their left flank and centre east of Grazzbenn could ill afford casualties having suffered badly at Grissburg. The 5th Brigade was now down to 74 figures, the size of a small Prussian regiment. The 6th Brigade was little better at 119. Unsurprisingly, their cavalry suffered proportionately higher losses but most are still in reasonably good shape.
A reflection of the desperation of the Prussian defence was their loss of Generals who repeatedly lead from the front. They were:
Reichenbach, 11th Infantry Regiment commander of 14th Brigade. (holding the centre).
Sydow, 3rd Cavalry Brigade, 4th Corps reserve cavalry (holding the centre).
Rentzell, 1st Corps Artillery Reserve that had decimated the French artillery in counter-battery fire to the south.
Treskow II, 1st Cavalry Brigade of the 1st Corps Reserve Cavalry killed in the final melee of the battle defeating the Empress’ Dragoons.
The French losses could have severe repercussions in the days ahead. Although broadly spread, for the 2nd and 3rd Corps they were keenly felt as they had already suffered from earlier battles in the campaign. Both Corps were now pretty much at half strength – 518 and 456 respectively representing 10,000 and 9,000 men. The Imperial Guard lost a valuable 98 of their 599. They remain the most effective formation but those losses will hurt. Kellerman’s 3rd Cavalry Corps has now been reduced to just 108 figures, and that includes 13 artillery crew. The Cuirassiers and Carabiniers regiments are down to 11 or 12 figures each with the 11th Cuirassiers down to 8!
The only French General killed was Dufour of the 1st Brigade, 11th Division, 3rd Corps. One of the earliest casualties of the battle when he was killed by Prussian artillery in the opening salvoes.
A note on General replacements. I dice as per the GdB rules for quality of the replacement. 1 = poor, 2 – 5 = Average, 6 = Excellent. All the above replacements were Average.
I will cover the strategic situation in my next post when I detail the next map moves.
Napoleon gambled and lost. He now has some serious thinking to do in the days ahead.