April/May 1809 - The Austrian army is divided into two parts after heavy fighting in Bavaria. The main army under Charles retires through Bohemia. The southern forces under Hiller retire through Austria south of the Danube. Will Napoleon follow Charles through Bohemia and deny the Austrians the river as a defensive boundary or will he follow in behind Bessières who is pursuing after an elusive Hiller? He must consider the consequences of either choice. Moving north puts him further from Eugene and Massena and opens either up to attack but gives him the advantage of not having to cross the Danube in the face of a desperate defense. Charles on the other hand must decide whether to rest near Brunn or immediately retire on Vienna. Whatever the choice the forces are ready to march!
My strategy at the opening of the campaign was to attempt to draw Napoleon on to a field favorable to a defender. Both the fields of Znaim or Ebelsburg offer significant advantages to the Austrians and so my strategic decisions at the opening had the intent of luring the French to one of those fields. When given a choice, I opted to have Charles avoid a full battle and retreat to Znaim.
24 April 1809 - Charles will fall back to Znaim and then fall back on Vienna after resting his army and recouping their losses. Hiller is to fall back to Vienna, destroy the bridges there, and cross to the north bank and link up with Charles. John is ordered to fall back from Eugene and cross the Danube near Pressburg after destroying the bridge.
Fortunately, the French chose to pursue the Austrians north of the Danube (no doubt hoping to avoid the river crossing at Ebelsberg) and their lead elements found the Archduke’s army drawn up for battle around the town of Znaim. I had succeeded in reaching a preferred field.
12 May 1809 - (Campaign) - Charles has pulled his army back to the vicinity of Znaim in Bohemia and is going to steal a page out of Napoleon's book by making his position appear weaker than it really is. The French are pursuing at a rapid pace and their corps have become strung out. A report reaches the Austrian HQ that a force of Frenchmen has been sighted to the southwest. Is Napoleon turning your flank or is this a cavalry screen? Should you keep to your plan or be outflanked and have your line turned?
At the outset the bulk of the Austrian army is hidden from view—only the 3rd Korps is visible to the French as they arrive. Basically, the 3rd Korps is spread across the front to shield the major towns and objectives from the French. On the left, the 1st Division is in position in front of Znaim. In the center, the 2nd Division screens the town of Kakrowitz and the Austrian 1st Korps that is hidden there. On the right, the 3rd division holds the village of Unanov. They are supported by 1000 cavalry (Hussar #4). At full strength, the 3rd Korps has about 17,500 men that are almost equally divided among the three divisions.
The French advance is strung out and their lead elements are almost all cavalry. I preferred to keep the bulk of the Austrian army hidden as long as possible, so I left the 3rd Korps in place to screen Charles’ main force. Facing cavalry in the center, the 2nd Division formed square and placed their guns within. On the right, the 3rd Division formed a defensive position in and around Unanov.
As the French advanced, they largely ignored the approach to Znaim and concentrated in the center and on Unanov. The Austrian artillery in the center was successful in keeping the French cavalry away from their lines, but the combination of French infantry and cavalry made short work of the defenders around Unanov. For the most part, the Austrian 3rd Division was destroyed as were some elements of the 2nd Division that tried to extend assistance. My strategy of using squares with artillery was actually quite successful against cavalry but were susceptible to isolation and elimination once a large enough force of infantry reached the combat zone. I was too slow in pulling the 2nd and 3rd Division units back and lost heavily in men, guns, and officers. The Hussars #4 were also lost in the defense of Unanov. I had committed them to a charge against two French horse batteries during the defense of the town. They were only partly successful (capturing one battery) due to a misjudgment on my part about how far they could advance after their initial attack. The destruction of the Austrian right was complete by about 9 am.
As the French gained strength, they concentrated in the center and the Austrian right. Too late, I ordered the Austrian 1st Korps to the relief of the beleaguered 3rd Korps. While they were able to stabilize the center and reconstruct the right, most of the remaining elements of the 2nd and 3rd Divisions were destroyed. With the addition of the 1st Korps, the front stabilized along the line of the most forward objective hexes. The Austrian battalions formed line and began to take quite a toll on the French infantry and skirmishers arrayed against them. I formed several batteries of guns slightly behind my front line. These guns worked energetically on the French infantry and cavalry through the first 20 turns of the game.
After the fall of Unanov, the French commander extended his left flank in an attempt to envelop the Austrian right. To do this, the French extended along the south side of the Unanovka River. This was a sizable force—perhaps 1250 cavalry and at least a brigade of infantry with one battery in tow.
While the French were maneuvering around the Austrian right, the Austrian 4th Korps had been advancing across the high northern plateau and arrived behind the French flanking force. The 4th Korps was unopposed as they recaptured Unanov. Continuing their movement south, they severed the connections between the French flanking force and Napoleon’s main body of troops. Unfortunately, several battalions of the 4th Korps were unable to clear Unanov before French reinforcements arrived. The French cavalry charged and cut off their escape route and the Austrians were destroyed by infantry within a few turns. The rest of the 4th Korps formed a solid defensive line anchored on the right by the Unanovka River and easily repulsed the latest French advance. This left the French flanking force in the Austrian rear.
Rather than attempting to rejoin the main army, the French commander ordered his isolated flanking force to undertake a deep penetration—objective Tesetice (1,000 pts.) on the Unanovka River. Since the French force was too large to ignore, Charles was forced to detach units from the 1st and 4th Korps to pursue the French. But the French had almost an hour head start. Fortunately, Charles had earlier sent the Chevaulegers #5 3/2/2 and the Cuirassier #2 1Cav/RD/RK across the Austrian rear through Zuckenhandl. Elements of these units occupied Tesetice before the French arrived. Other elements of the 3rd Division/4th Korps were also moving towards Tesetice along the north side of the Unanovka River. The plan was to eventually trap the French force and destroy it in detail. The destruction of this force would go a long way towards rebalancing the score, which had begun to favor the Emperor of France.
At turn 26/60, the casualties were as follows:
French losses: 5,216 infantry, 3,056 cavalry, 8 guns, and 1 officer;
Austrian losses: 10,234 infantry, 2,137 cavalry, 27 guns, and 9 officers.
Most of the Austrian guns and officers lost were from the 3rd Korps.
Having dispatched a considerable force to pursue the French penetration towards Tesetice, the Austrians found themselves outnumbered along the right front behind the Unanovka River. French reinforcements eventually allowed Napoleon to ford the river and curl around the Austrian right. Having to keep up a defense in front, the Austrians were unable to pull back their right. By turn 37 (1400 hrs) the Austrian right was enveloped and Kukrowitz (a major objective) was threatened. The Archduke was very concerned that he would not be able to extricate his 3rd and 4th Korps troops from the French envelopment.
Near Tesetice, the Austrians had successfully fended off the rogue French force and had been able to inflict significant casualties. The Austrians were not able to trap the French, however, and they moved off toward the river crossing at the village of Bantice. Still, it remained imperative for the Austrians to destroy this force both to end the threat and to make up for losses on the main front.
French reinforcements began to arrive on the field from the southwest. The Archduke had left most of the 2nd Korps in place to defend the river behind Novy-Saldorf but there was a question of whether they would be sufficient.
By 1600 hours (turn 41/60), the Austrian right had been destroyed and many Austrian battalions had been lost. Much of the French success during this phase of the battle was due to good use of French cavalry and infantry in combination. With cavalry superiority, the French were able to charge repeatedly and isolate small elements of the retreating Austrians. French infantry would then move in and finish the job. There really was little that the Austrians could do but try to save as many men and guns as possible while sacrificing as little as possible.
By now, the French were poised to assault Kurkrowitz. The defensive forces there were capable of offering only a token resistance.
To the rear, along the Unanovka River, the French had run past Bantice and headed towards Prace. It appeared that they had escaped the Austrian pursuit… at least for the time being.
In the southwest, the French had taken Novy-Saldorf without a fight and had decided to range further south rather than assaulting the heavily defended river line.
At this point, Archduke Charles took a moment to assess the battlefield situation. The French had shattered the Austrian right and were poised to capture Kurkowitz. And while the city of Znaim was safe, the French force in the south were threatening another deep penetration towards the Austrian objectives in the rear areas. Casualties had been heavy; the Austrians had lost over 37,000 infantry, 7,900 cavalry, 78 guns, and 28 senior officers, compared to French losses of 20,000 infantry, 9,100 cavalry, 28 guns, and 10 officers. The score (1865 points) indicated a French minor defeat only because Napoleon’s forces had not yet taken any major objectives—but this was only a matter of time.
In the center, the situation was becoming desperate for the Austrians. It was imperative that they withdraw to Znaim before much more of their strength was eroded. Hence, the Archduke decided to offer the French a minor victory even though the score still indicated a French minor defeat.
The French commander accepted the Austrian offer and the armies marched off to another field closer to Vienna.
General opening comments (These were completed after the battle, the comments below were done at the time):
The French strategy was simple, chase the Austrians and bring them to battle. With no real knowledge of the strategic choices, I followed Charles, expecting that would bring about the major battle against the strongest Austrian forces for which I was searching. That brought us to Znaim.
The situation at the outset was very obscure. Only a few Austrians were visible, but their dispositions (they were very boldly standing their ground within easy range of large areas of dead ground) suggested a considerable force was within supporting distance. With no means of telling where those supports were and not keen on falling into a trap, I was content to probe and let him reveal his intentions, particularly as some of my forces were still several hours march away from the battlefield. This wait was not unfruitful, as the bait dangled to try and lead me on was a bit too eager and I managed to roughly handle a couple of divisions without too great a loss on my side.
The Austrians are present in considerable force, with several corps evident, spread across the map, together with a significant amount of hidden movement. (I think this is coming from his far left, as major formations have come from every other part of the field and one cavalry unit has been visible coming from that area.) As ever in this campaign, the Austrians are strong in artillery but weak in cavalry. The French Army is slowly coming onto the field, also from widely separated points across the map.
The Austrians need to defend a widely?spaced set of VP locations, against a French force with higher mobility, due to its superiority in cavalry. In these circumstances, a set piece battle – well in advance of the VP locations - would suit the Austrians, particularly with their greater number and calibre of guns. This is consistent with Charles’ approach so far, with three corps converging on the centre.
Assume from the hidden movement there is a corps in reserve, probably in the Austrian deep left flank. As he probably knows Davout is coming from the west, Charles will want to keep that corps in reserve, to protect the VP locations from that direction.
My intention is to keep the Austrians as widely dispersed as possible, by French corps advancing to threaten VP locations from where they arrive, rather than gathering at some central point. This will allow cheap captures of VP locations, by staging raids between the Austrian formations, and/or concentrating against isolated Austrian formations, using distance and my superior cavalry to cordon off an area selected for attack. If the Austrians attack where they have local superiority, the French to their front will retire, as this will tend to increase the Austrian dispersion across the battlefield: a strategy inspired by the Allies' Trachenberg Plan of August 1813 against Napoleon, and the Fabian strategy that defeated Hannibal.
The objective of Lannes' command (less the forces discussed below) is to court attack from the Austrians, to allow other corps freedom to move. This force will face considerable pressure in coming turns, facing one strong Austrian corps with another corps approaching from each flank. The Guard and reserve cavalry will support this front, but will try to avoid combat. The intention here is to draw the Austrian centre into a battle, tying them down and drawing them out, but not accepting any full-scale action.
If the Austrian pressure on this front is not maintained, the French centre will advance, to maintain the pressure on the Austrians.
4 Division of Lannes' command plus 1 Heavy Division of the Reserve Cavalry will raid into the Austrian rear. They will avoid combat with any significant Austrian force, but will destroy any delaying force (such as a cavalry cordon). (Having divisional command structures plus Lannes himself should enable rapid recovery from disorder after combat.) Having caused Austrian dispersion, this force will be available to support any attack by other French forces. Alternatively, it could capture and hold important VP locations.
The Württemberg (VIII - Vandamme) and Saxon (IX - Bernadotte) corps will arrive over the next few hours, in a position to turn the Austrian right flank. As they arrive, they will advance to threaten that flank, dispersing the Austrians and reducing the pressure on the French centre. They will not take part in the centre battle, unless Lannes is in serious trouble. When fully deployed they will attack the Austrian right flank, with the aim of isolating and destroying the corps on this flank.
III Corps (Davout) will arrive relatively late in the day, in a position to turn the Austrian left flank. While conditions at the time may dictate otherwise, the intention is for this corps to advance directly on the major VP locations to the rear of the Austrian left, assisted by an advance (if possible) by the centre.
The strategy outlined above is to attack from the left and right flanks, with a raid behind the Austrian centre right, and to retire if pressed in the centre. How will the Austrians react to this?
The attempt to gain the initiative has been largely successful; the Austrians appear to be reacting to French moves rather than moving to any particular plan. The raid by Lannes with the heavy cavalry plus a division of infantry has penetrated the Austrian position, forcing Austrian dispersion and creating the conditions for achieving local superiority. (Charles appears to have taken Option 1 of the set I identified previously, or defending an increasing perimeter. In particular, the Austrian right is in danger of being fatally compromised. At this stage the strategy appears to be working so I will continue with it.)
Left. The Württembergers will continue to skirt the right flank of the main Austrian force, at worst tying them down and providing opportunities for a turning move across the rear of the Austrian centre. The Saxons will reinforce this sector, increasing those opportunities.
Centre. With the arrival of the final division, this force can now get more aggressive. The Austrians appear a bit more circumspect in this area than before, because of both this addition to French strength and the subtraction of large forces to pursue Lannes. If the Austrians in the centre start to retreat, the French will pursue, snapping up any disordered infantry units left behind (and perhaps even trying to cause this situation, with "forlorn hope" type attacks).
Right. I think the Austrian final reserve is still in place on this flank. Davout is scheduled to appear in the next couple of hours, so we will find out.
Lannes' raid. The Austrians have reacted strongly to this raid, detaching large forces to pursue. (This has implications for the battle in the French centre and left, as noted above.) Lannes will therefore continue to move away, avoiding combat with significant Austrian forces but killing any light forces that attempt to get in the way. If the Austrian pursuit turns away to support the Austrian main body, this force will harass that effort.
The right flank of the Austrians has been shunted aside by the Württembergers, with the loss of several thousand (Austrian) men. However, the total strength of the two sides is about even in this area and I have no intention of bashing against those big Austrian battalions. Instead, the road is clear for the Württembergers to follow Lannes’ raid and destroy the Austrians attacking that raid – capturing a big VP location at the same time. The raid has met heavier weather than I had intended, but will escape over the next few turns, doubtless losing a few squadrons and battalions in the process, but still maintaining a threat to the Austrian communications (VP locations). As this is a battle in a bigger campaign, killing Austrians needs to be the priority, rather than VPs, but I need to aim at least at a draw, while making the casualty differential as big as possible.
Left. The Württembergers will follow the stream and attack the rear of the Austrians facing Lannes’ raid. The Saxons as they arrive will maintain the pressure on the Austrian right, but not seriously attack.
Centre. Keep the weight on the Austrians, so as to prevent them moving from this area, but no attack. If the Austrians in the centre start to retreat, the French will pursue, snapping up any disordered infantry units left behind (and perhaps even trying to cause this situation, with "forlorn hope" type attacks).
Right. Davout will move around to the south of the VP locations, seeking to smoke out any Austrian ambush. No serious action unless a favourable opportunity presents itself.
Lannes' raid. The Württembergers will arrive in the rear of the Austrians in this sector. Once the Austrians react to this move, this force will attack the Austrians.
With the Austrians in danger of complete destruction, Charles offered an armistice. While I was under no obligation to accept, I decided to do so. What was I to gain from destroying the Austrian Army? Who then would (albeit mostly theoretically) keep the Russians and Prussians in check in the east, while I dealt with Spain? I have no fundamental disagreements with the Hapsburgs (although I accept they may have some with me) and a complete victory would not increase my security. My objective in this war - which I did not start - is simply a return to the situation before it started, with the Austrian Army still in being. What I want then is a major victory without killing too many Austrians, requiring a subtle touch which obviously has eluded me in this instance. Oh well, on to Vienna and another field.
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