Today marked a significant day in my Great Crimean War project. It was the first time that the armies appeared on the table “in anger”.
The game was really a shakedown for a slightly larger game to be held later in the year, the goal being to ensure that the rules capture the spirit of the period.
The scenario was set quite soon after the battle of the Alma, while the Allied forces were setting up their bases on the southern shores of the peninsula and establishing siege lines in front of Sevastopol. In an attempt to drive the Allies back on their bases, or at least to delay the establishment of siege lines until more Russian forces could arrive, the Russian commander attacked across the Chernya River.
The Russians easily secured their primary objective, the village of Vitebisk that covered the Chernya bridge, but success of the operation could only really be assured by the occupation of the hill south of the village that dominates the road between the British and French bases. So victory conditions for the Russians were set as:
• Major victory – hold the hill at the end of the game.
• Minor victory – hold Vitebisk at the end of the game
• Defeat –Vitebisk is taken by the allies, regardless of any other objectives taken
The allied forces desperately needed to contain the Russians. The French and British commanders understand of the importance road and their primary objective is to secure it. Acting without communication of the each of them have scrambled together a force and despatched them to area. Their victory conditions are:
• Major Victory – compel the Russian force off the table to the north
• Victory – secure the road – Russians control the road if at the end of the game they have six or more unshaken units that occupy the road or can bring it under fire.
• Defeat – any result not shown above.
Neither side was aware of the finer details of the other's victory conditions.
The Allied Reserve
The Allies, who are outnumbered by the Russians, can call on a Sardinian brigade as a reserve, but calling the reserve comes at a cost in that the victory conditions change - they must occupy all or part of Vitebisk with two or more battalions of good order infantry at the end of the game. Any other result is a defeat.
The terrain is shown on the map, north up. All slopes are east going, the main hill in the centre was double the height of the other two ridges. Not shown on the map is a small stream that running southwest from Vitebisk, The southwestern edge of the eastern ridge is lightly wooded. The immediate area around Vitebisk contains a number of fields and vineyards.
Initial deployments were:
• Russians – within the yellow box
• French - within the rrd box
• British – within the blue box
• Allied Reserve - within the red box
Orders of Battle
Ukraine Jager Regiment
Odessa Jager Regiment
16th Position battery
30th Light battery
9th Position Battery
17th light battery
Moscow Dragoon Regiment
Finland Dragoon Regiment
Archduke Ferdinand Hussar Regiment
New Ingermanland Hussar Regiment
35th Don Cossack Regiment
28th Don Cossack Regiment
3rd Ural Cossack Regiment
3rd Don Cossack Battery
• 24 Infantry Battalions
• 7 cavalry Regiments
• 10 guns
A Battery RA
H Battery RA
E Battery RA
F Battery RA
17th Lancer Regiment
4th Light Dragoon Regiment
13th Light Dragoon Regiment
8th Hussar Regiment
11th Hussar Regiment
A Battery RHA
1st Chaseur a Pied
1st Zouave Regiment
7th line Infantry Regiment
3/8th Battery Montée
1/9th Battery Montée
1st Regiment Chasseurs d'Afrique
2nd Regiment Chasseurs d'Afrique
1/6th Battery a Cheval
• 18 Infantry Battalions
• 7 Cavalry Regiments
• 8 guns
In all morecthan 1,000 figures and 18 guns were on the table.
The Russians had the first move and advanced rapidly out of the town, pushing the dragoons and hussars across the the main hill, intent of taking post between the allied troops. The Cossacks, with the Cossack artillery, took the ground to right of the town where they faced the advancing British. The 2nd Division also moved in this direction, while the 1st Division moved to the left to face the French.
The British player deployed the Light Brigade on their left, facing the Cossacks. The Highland Brigade led the advance , supported by the 4th Division, while the Brigade of Guards formed the reserve.
The French player threw the Chasseurs forward up the road, the zouaves to the left of the road and the line regiment on the right. The cavalry brigade swung right, along the ridge, looking to gain the Russian left flank.
The Russian regular cavalry, having secured the hill, swung right to face the British. The Highlanders formed square in the face of this threat, while the rifles and the 46th Foot formed on their left.
Meanwhile the Light Brigade formed up to attack the Cossacks, but two Russian batteries cut the 17th Lancers and 13th Light Dragoons to pieces and they were compelled to withdraw from the fight before they could have any effect on the battle. The 11th Hussars charged the Cossack battery and, despite taking heavy losses, routed the gunners and broke through onto a unit of cossacks beyond, but could not drive off the cossacks.
On the other flank the Russian infantry secured the hill and three infantry regiments moved against the French, who struggled to deploy. The Zouaves attempted to charge, but were easily repulsed. But before the Russians could exploit the situation the Zouaves rallied and the French line stabilised.
On the French far right, the cavalry deployed and advanced. The 1st Regiment Chasseurs d'Afrique charged and routed a Russian battalion. Next turn the 2nd Regiment Chasseurs d'Afrique charged and routed two more Russian battalions, but took such heavy losses in the combat they were effectively out of the battle.
But the end was nigh for the French and two Russian Regiments descended on them like a sledge hammer. In a short time the French infantry and artillery were driven from the field.
Meanwhile in front of the Highland Brigade the Russian cavalry withdrew and a the Russian infantry came forward. The Scots charged, but were repelled. The Russians then pressed forward and drove off the Highlanders.
The Light Brigade continued its activities against the cossacks, but were eventually destroyed.
Only the Brigade of Guards and a couple of battalions of 4th Division stood in the way of the Russians. A desperate attack by the Scots Guards drove off half a Russian regiment, but the writing was on the wall and British conceded the field.
The Sardinians did appear briefly on the field, but recognised the futility of their effort and withdrew.
The Russians could claim a major victory.
So did the game serve its purpose, to test that the rules captured the spirit if the period? On the whole I think the rules worked well, although the Allies did not gain enough advantage from the rifled musket. This will be corrected fir the next game.