Jim Owczarski, 29 October 2020
So, as I said earlier, the French won.
If you watched the first video I shared, you know that the Austrian objective was to run the French out of Bavaria. The French objective was not quite the converse. Their goal was a combination of not getting driven out of Bavaria but also defeating the Austrian armies. Put another way, the Austrians can win if the French withdraw; the French cannot truly win without bloodying-up the Austrians.
Why a French victory? First, you may want to have this map before you as much of what I will say points to it.
I will leave most of the details to the videos, but, while the Austrians did manage to take and hold Ratisbonne, it committed three corps in the early going to wrest it from the single division holding it. These were three corps that did not cross well south of the Danube until the last day of the campaign — fully a week after the start of the game. What is more, the late commitment of Hohenzollern — forever to be known as he who descends from the mountains — meant his corps also had nothing to do.
Kienmaier and Liechtenstein, it must be said, did the very most with what they had, driving poor Oudinot like a hare before the hounds in the environs around Munich until Massena’s timely arrival at the battle near the bridge over the Isar at Freising balanced matters a bit. Even then, they made bold use of deception and even a pontoon bridge to give the French commanders fits. They could not hold Munich, though, leaving that critical location in French hands.
And then there was Marshal Davout. I will not deny my bias, believing him the greatest battlefield commander of the era bar none, and I am happy to report that both men who played Davout in these Kriegsspiels did him proud. Abandoning Ratisbonne to its fate, Davout thundered down to Landshut where he stabilized the early fight there between Louis and Lefebvre. He then marched around the Isar to Landau (watch the videos), chased the Austrians there guarding the river away, and planted St. Sulpice’s cavalry directly athwart the Austrian lines of communications. This latter action bore dramatic fruit throughout the remainder of the campaign.
Davout then wheeled back south and west and, marching along the south bank of the Isar, shattered Rosenberg’s corps guarding the southern approaches to Landshut. Having done this — and having at last been found by Napoleon — he marched to the sound of the proverbial guns and, had the game not ended when it did, would have assisted in the taking of Munich. If nothing else, the III Corps earned its reputation for bearing up under brutal route marches.
So, with nine Austrian divisions — three corps — shattered to a French two and with Munich in French hands, both Dr. Rouy and I agreed that the Kriegsrat would have seen enough and summoned Charles home.
In comparing the events of the game to those of April 1809, some notable contrasts are evident. The real Napoleon never prevaricated as to whether to march north towards Ratisbonne, south to Munich, or east to Landshut. By the same token, the real Charles had no scheme fractionally as elaborate as that fashioned by his 21st Century counterpart. This was enjoyable to run but I think proved difficult to execute for those in local command. More importantly — and certainly in part because the French were stealing their mail — it left the northern and southern halves of the Austrian force in the dark about what the other was doing. Even when communiques got through they were often many hours if not days old.
The real Charles, despite the defeat at Eggmuhl and lesser ones at Teugn-Hausen, Landshut, and even Ratibonne, was able to extricate most of his army through Ratisbonne and thence back east to Vienna. These were the forces that would defeat Napoleon at Aspern-Essling a few months later. Our Charles will not be in such a good state. Rosenberg’s corps is a ruin and, most importantly, his guard will be spending several months enjoying French hospitality. He can certainly withdraw and that safely — there are very few French troops anywhere near the Danube — but he’ll take back a bloody hand.
To the awards, then:
To both Bellegarde and Hohenzollern: Honor Medal for Bravery.
Watch the videos. Never have so many marched so far. Particular mention must be made of Hohenzollern, played ably by my friend Vance Strickland (Barthheart) who has no great love of this era but has gamely taken it square in the chops in not one but two of these games spanning something approaching four years.
To both Kienmaier and Liechtenstein: The von Lettow-Vorbeck award for gallantry and good humor in the face of daunting odds.
I want to extend a particular thanks to Lance (Kienmaier) for his very fine play and for bringing his friend John H. Gill (Liechtenstein) to the game. The latter’s help in my explorations of Bavaria are greatly appreciated still and he played with a terrific spirit.
And to Charles — a well-earned rest away from that really annoying Kriegsrat. You should see the plans this guy drafts!
To Oudinot/Lannes: If I could figure out a way to put a “Little Engine that Could” on a medal and have it look dignified, I would do it.
From being punched around for days do delivering a final blow to Austrian hopes outside Garching, he has quite a story to tell.
To Vandamme: The High Military Order of Cassandra.
He spent most of the game telling his team precisely where most of the Austrian army was. And never struck a blow or had one struck back.
To Davout: The Legion of Honor.
Our game’s M.V.C.
To Napoleon: An evening of wine, women, and women somewhere in Bavaria.
I know a couple great places in Landshut. Commanding in a game like this can be a hair-pulling experience. I suggest anyone who imagines they can do better step up and try.
With that, please enjoy the videos and I hope to be back with a few dozen more in a couple years.
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