After Action Report: John Tiller's Battleground Napoleonic Wars - Battle of Shevardino Redoubt
Using John Tiller's Battleground Napoleonic Wars, Martin Lampon plays out the Battle of Shevardino Redoubt. This battle was fought on a prelude to the Battle of Borodino and was fought just two days prior.
Napoleon in Russia
Before the Battle of Borodino took place on the 7th of September 1812, the Grande Armée under Napoleon first had to clear an advanced Russian defensive position around the village of Shevardino. General Kutuzov had ordered a large earthwork redoubt constructed just west of the village in an attempt to hold up the French advance, whilst his main army prepared for the battle still to come. The command to assault the Shevardino redoubt was given over to Joachim Murat, Napoleon’s flamboyant cavalry leader. On the afternoon of the 5th, French forces crossed the Kolocha River, using several pontoon bridges that they had constructed earlier, and started their advance towards the Russian defensive positions.
I am playing, as the French, the historical “The Shevardino Redoubt” scenario. This has eighteen game turns and has several French formations fixed in place at the beginning of the game. These units may or may not release on time, so my attack might not have all the troops available. I do, however, have substantial reinforcements arriving from both north and south of my initial position that I can use to throw into the assault. I have all of the in-game optional rules turned on to make the game as challenging as possible.
So, with a limited amount of time and the possibility of not having all my troops when necessary, I need to get straight into the attack to have any hope of capturing the Russian defensive positions. It is now 4:00pm and dusk is approaching as the assault begins. Let’s see how it went.
4:00pm – 5:00pm
The troops I have available initially are a French infantry division from the I Corp, commanded by General Compans, supported by two French reserve cavalry corps under generals Nansouty and Montbrun. All I can currently see are a few Russian light infantry outposts and the earthwork redoubt outside Shevardino village manned by a Russian artillery formation. I immediately send out my skirmisher companies ahead of the advancing French columns to scout out the Russian positions. My first objective is to take the village of Doronino.
As I get to the outskirts of Doronino, several Russian light infantry Jager formations are revealed: I engage them in a fire fight. My left flank brigades come under Russian artillery fire, so I move them into shelter between two ridges. It is now when a Russian cavalry formation appears ahead, on the top of the ridge. Not wanting to waste time, I order the brigade under General Teste to assault the village of Doronino, which they manage to take reasonably easily from the light troops. I halt the advance of the left flank momentarily, waiting for support from my cavalry to help deal with the Russian cavalry that is to my front. Unfortunately, both French cavalry reserve corps remain fixed and are effectively holding up my plan of attack. I must wait for them to be released.
5:00pm – 6:00pm
My left flank brigades are now charged by Russian heavy cavalry—regiments of cuirassiers and dragoons sweeping down from the ridge above my position. Without cavalry support, I am forced to place my infantry battalions into square formation and hope for relief. While waiting for my cavalry I move my division artillery across to help deal with the Russian cavalry threat, firing round after round into the dense formations of the enemy cavalry.
At 5:30pm, over an hour late, the cavalry corps under Montbrun is released, but due to the terrain I have to manoeuvre them around my left flank to get at the enemy. My infantry squares will have to endure for a little while longer. Fortunately, the Russian cavalry attacks here are beginning to peter out as they become fatigued and exhausted. My right flank has now consolidated its hold on the village of Doronino and is also waiting for cavalry support before it can renew its attack towards the Shevardino redoubt.
6:00pm – 6:30pm
At 6:00pm the second reserve cavalry corps is released and I can now move forward; but again, I have to withstand more heavy cavalry attacks from the Russians before they can arrive. The Russians, catching several of my infantry battalions in column, cause heavy casualties.
My extreme right flank reinforcements—Polish troops under General Poniatowsky—have arrived, and they start their slow but steady push along the post road towards Utitza. Along their way they engage numerous light troop formations in the woods. The terrain will make it hard for them to have any real effect on the main fighting at Shevardino; it will, however, make the Russians look to their left flank as I start to advance on the main objective. French reinforcements have also arrived to the north, crossing the Kolocha River. I bring these troops down to help take the pressure off my left flank by advancing on Shevardino village.
As soon as they are able, I throw my cavalry reserve formations into counter-charges around Doronino , hoping to break the fatigued Russian cavalry. I also bring up horse artillery, causing heavy casualties to the dense formations of cuirassiers, dragoons, uhlans and hussars! Finally clearing away these colourful troops, I can now start to regroup and attempt to move forward again.
Dusk is now fast approaching, so I must resume the attack quickly as visibility will begin to fade. I order every available formation to attack towards Shevardino. Now with even more reinforcements arriving at Valuevo, to the north, I plan to try and get these troops, under Generals Morand and Friant, around the right flank of Shevardino village to cut off the Russian retreat.
Steadily pushing forward, using fresh cavalry formations to charge wherever possible, I force the Russians fall back by sheer weight of numbers. I manage to get to the redoubt earthworks and to the village of Shevardino itself by 9:00pm. Attacks at night turns are very risky, so I will have to be careful when and where I attack if I want to capture the victory hexes and secure the battlefield.
The Russians are still able to put in several more devastating infantry and cavalry counter-charges. With visibility down to 1 hex, the Russian cavalry catch several battalions out of square and these are routed with heavy casualties. However, these attacks also fatigue the Russian troops and I am able to counter-attack myself—the French heavy cavalry carabineers riding down and capturing large numbers of exhausted Russian infantry formations. To maintain their front, a lot of Russian infantry are now forced into square formations. I currently have my cavalry searching for the enemy and formations to charge. I am able to cause massive amounts of casualties on these large immobile troop formations, but they still will not break and run!
With little time left, the fighting becomes desperate as both sides struggle over the victory hexes. At 10:00pm I manage to take one of the Shevardino village victory objectives; this now swings the battle in my favour as a minor victory. My last attack on the Shevardino redoubt itself fails as my troops are now too fatigued to carry the position, but I place my troops into positions surrounding the redoubt. This will ensure that the Russians will have to retreat at some point if they want to escape to fight another day.
Unfortunately at 11:00pm the Russians counterattack again and retake Shevardino village. And with no time left to organise a final, desperate assault, I have to accept that the result will be a hard fought draw.
Even though the final result is a draw, it is clear from the final Russian positions that they will have to withdraw from the Shevardino redoubt and village during the night, or risk being completely surrounded and destroyed the next day. General Kutuzov will need as many troops as he can get a hold of to fight at Borodino in two days' time.
The continuous Russian cavalry charges certainly did hold up my advance long enough to prevent me from getting any sort of outright victory, and the Russians retaking the Shevardino village victory hex right at the end of the game was frustrating. Also, having the French cavalry resting, not being released on tie, at the beginning of the scenario, was a big hindrance to may advance—very un-Murat-like of them. I think Napoleon will probably have to give his marshal a stern talking to! But with Polish troops pushing towards Utitza in the south, and more French reinforcements arriving in the North, the Russian position was completely untenable at the end of the day—quite similar to how the historical battle finished.
John Tiller's Battleground Napoleonic Wars provides a challenging game. Again, I recommend his Battleground series to anybody who hasn't tried them when they were originally released by Talonsoft. You can now pick them up as a complete set from Matrix Games. I hope you have enjoyed reading this AAR.
After action review written by: Martin Lampon, Staff Writer
About Martin Lampon
Martin Lampon is a graphic designer who has been a wargamer, board gamer and PC gamer for nearly 40 years. He has a particular interest in the history of the Napoleonic Wars, but will do anything to pursue knowledge in military history subjects of any era.
Forum username: MartNick
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