This was the second game of our wargames week. Since I organised this game I have included more detail of the scenario here. It was set immediately after the Battle of the Alma and takes a bit of a liberty with history by allowing the Sardinian Brigade to arrive in the Crimea a full eighteen months before they did in reality (well I had painted them so it seemed a shame to not have them there).
After the Alma the Russians had retreated south towards Sevastopol while the Allies had regrouped and rested just south of the battlefield.
Relieved that the Allies did not immediately pursue the Russian Commander, Prince Menshikov, left a small garrison at Sevastopol and retired on the town of Simferopol in the centre of the Crimean Peninsula with the larger part of his army. From this new base Menshikov hoped to operate more effectively against the Allied armies. With a level of efficiency rarely seen in the Russian Army of the day, the army was fed, re-equiped and reorganised in just four days.
In the meantime the Allies began to move south to isolate Sevastopol. Allied command soon realised their error in letting the Russians retreat unpursued and a portion of the army was organised into a field force that turned east to defend the flank and rear of the army. This force consisted of three British and one French infantry divisions, supported by two brigades of cavalry and a recently arrived Sardinian brigade. Typical of the Allied effort in this war there was no unity of command and no senior commander was appointed.
Advancing east, the Allied troops encountered Cossacks near the village of Bakahchysarai in the evening 26 September. The divisions went into camp and awoke on the morning of the 27th to the news that a significant Russian force was reported as approaching Bakahchysarai. The army was called to arms and a conference amongst the divisional commanders was hurriedly called.
From the Russian side the Cossacks reported the advance on Simferopol of an Allied force. Determined to recover his reputation after the disaster at the Alma, Menshikov ordered the 7th and 8th Infantry Divisions, supported by the 2nd Cavalry Division to face the advancing allies. But, in an abdication of responsibility that would typify his command in the peninsula, he remained in Simferopol and left the direction of the fight entirely up the divisional commanders on the field, none of which knew whether they should attack or defend. The divisions approached Bakahchysarai around midnight and went into bivouac. The Engineers constructed a redoubt across the Simferopol/Sevastopol Road while the senior generals gathered for a conference.
The rules were my own homegrown set. Developed over a number of years by borrowing a mix of ideas from many different sources, at the centre of the rules is the belief that as long as your units are in control, are in good order (not shaken or distrupted) or have not suffered heavy losses, that they will pretty much do as you the player wants. But if units are not well managed or are heavily stressed, things can go very badly wrong very quickly.
The Map and Deployment
The Russians arrival zone is indicated by the green bar.
The Allied arrival zone is indicated by the blue bar, but their arrival had a few restrictions:
- At least one infantry division had to arrive to the left of the river
- the Sardinians arrive at the point indicated by the red bar and can be called on at any time, but will attract a penalty if they are called. That penalty is greater if called early in the game as opposed to later in the game.
The table before any deployment with the Russians coming from the right and the Allied troops from the left
The only restrictive terrain was the river and its tributary. Both are shallow with low banks.
- Infantry and cavalry treat either water courses as minor obstacles and can cross at any point except at where the light woods are on the banks.
- Artillery can only cross the river at the bridge and the stream at where the road crosses.
Russian Order of Battle
7th Infantry Division, Lieutenant General Count Alexi Onatop
1st Brigade: Major General Sergei Pestov
Smolensk Infantry Regiment (4 battalions)
Mohilev Infantry Regiment (4 battalions)
2nd Brigade: Major General Demetri Lacksavich
Vitebsk Jager Regiment (4 battalions)
Polotsk Jager Regiment (4 battalions)
7th Artillery Brigade:
9th Position Battery (2)
10th Position Battery (2)
17th Light Battery (2)
8th Infantry Division Lieutenant General Boris Knockeroff
1st Brigade: Major General Pyotr Dropoff
Azov Infantry Regiment (4 battalions)
Dnieper Infantry Regiment (4 battalions)
2nd Brigade: Major General Igor Phallov
Ukraine Jager Regiment (4 battalions)
Odessa Jager Regiment (4 battalions)
12th Artillery Brigade:
16th Position Battery (2)
30th Light Battery (2)
31st Light Battery (2)
2nd Cavalry Division Major General Vladimir Chargenoff
1st (Dragoon) Brigade: Major General Anatoly Smirnoff
Kazan Dragoon Regiment
Riga Dragoon Regiment
2nd (Hussar) Brigade: Major General Ivan Stroganoff
Kiev Hussar Regiment
Ingermannland Hussar Regiment
Cossack Brigade General Yuri Schpinatop
Cossack Battery (2)
Allied Order of Battle
1st Infantry Division, HRH the Duke of Cambridge
Guards Brigade Brigadier General Bentinck
Highland Brigade: Brigadier General Sir C. Campbell
42nd (Black Watch) Foot Regiment
79th (Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders) Foot Regiment
93rd (Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders) Foot Regiment
Battery A RA
Battery H RA
4th Infantry Division Sir George Cathcart
First Brigade: BRigadier General Horn
20th Foot Regiment
21st Foot Regiment
63rd Foot Regiment
Second Brigade: Brigadier General Torrens
46th Foot Regiment
Battery E RA
Battery P RA
Light Division Sir George Brown
First Brigade: Major-General Codrington
7th Royal Fusiliers
23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers
Second Brigade: Major-General Buller
Light Cavalry Brigade - Lord Cardigan:
4th Light Dragoon Regiment
13th Light Dragoon Regiment
8th Hussar Regiment
11th Hussar Regiment
17th Lancer Regiment
Battery A RHA
1st Infantry Division
1st Brigade: Général de brigade Espinasse
1st Chasseur à Pied Battalion
1st Zouave Regiment (3 battalions)
6th Line Regiment (3 battalions)
2nd Brigade: Général de brigade Vinoy
20th Line Regiment (3 battalions)
27th Line Regiment (3 battalions)
Artillery: Chef d’escadron Huguenet
3/8th Artillery Regiment
1/9th Artillery Regiment
Cavalry Brigade: d’Allonville
1st Chasseurs d’Afrique
4th Chasseurs d’Afrique
4/5th Horse Artillery Regiment
4th Provisional Brigade: Colonel Vino di Rossi
4th Provisional Regiment
Provisional Battalions of 9th, 10th, 15th, & 16th Infantry regiments
4th Provisional Battalion of Bersaglieri
13th Field Artillery Battery
2nd Provisional Battalion of Bersaglieri
All infantry battalions and cavalry regiments consisted of three stands. Allied artillery batteries were one stand and Russian batteries two stands.
Total figure count
• 1414 Foot figures
• 135 mounted figures
• 23 guns
Each side scores victory points as follows:
Loss of units:
-1 for each unit permanently shaken at the end of the game
-1 for each enemy unit destroyed or quits the field
-1 for each leader killed (i.e. does not return)
Control of objectives
+5 to the side that has uncontested control of the Kacha Bridge
+5 to the side that has uncontested control of Bakahchysarai
+5 to the side that has uncontested control of the church yard
-10 victory points if they decide to activate the Sardinian Brigade before the lunch break, or -5 points if after the lunch break
-10 victory points if three or more regiments of the Light Brigade are shaken or have quit the field at the end of the game
+ One bonus victory point for every complete five allied units that have quit the field at the end of the game
And the Game...
The Allied forces chose to deploy the French division on the right, near the farm. Next in the line, to their left, was the Light Division with the Light Brigade to their front, then the First Division and the 4th Division. They also elected to bring the Sardinians on the table from the start. Their intention was to take all of the terrain objectives.
The deployment of the Light Brigade, the Light Division and the First Division
The deployment of the Fourth Division and Sardinians
The Russians chose to avoid the village and the bridge and simply take the battle to the allied army, deploying one division either side of the church, while the cavalry occupied the ground between the stream and the village. The cossacks would occupy the hill on the extreme right, intending simply to occupy the attention of the Allies in front of the village.
The Russian 7th Division deploys
The Russian 8th Division deploys
The action started with the Light Brigade swinging left to face the Russian cavalry, pressing forward to the banks of the stream, near where the road crossed it. The Russian dragoons moved forward in an attempt to draw the Light Brigade forward. The ploy worked well and the British cavalry charged forward, across the stream and the Russian dragoons counterattacked, driving off the 8th Hussars and holding back the 13th Light Dragoons. A protracted melee continued between the Russian and British Dragoons, in which the Russians eventually came off the worse. One regiment pursued the broken hussars and slammed into the 11th Hussars, driving them off too before being driven off themselves by the 4th Light Dragoons. But the Russian troopers had done their job and no further British troops pushed across the stream.
The Light Brigade advance to the stream
The Russian Dragoons attack...
...break through onto the 11th Hussars (seen routing away to the left)...
...and then reform after driving off the Light Brigade
Meanwhile on the Allied left flank 4th Division and the Sardinians formed up opposite the mill and the village while the cossacks observed them from the hill on the opposite bank of the river. On the opposite flank the French deployed ready to take control of the church and the heights.
The Fourth Division cross the river
The Sardinians cross the bridge by the mill (astute readers will note that this was the mil that was the subject of a project in January)
In the centre the infantry action began in earnest. The Light Division was thinly strung between the First Division and the French. The Russian 7th Division deployed against them and moved rapidly forward. Sharp conflict ensued, but the seven battalions of the Light Division found themselves fighting sixteen Russian battalions, supported by three batteries. In a short space of time the Light Division was driven off.
With their right flank exposed the Guards and Highlanders of the First Division changed face to meet the Russian threat and two battalions of French Zouaves turned to protect the French left, driving off a Russian battalion, but suffering huge losses in the process.
The Guards and Highland Brigades turn to face the threat from the Russian 7th Division
On the French front the French troops had no difficulty taking the church, but the Russian 8th Division came up in full strength and the French struggled to get the upper hand.
...then capture the church (again astute readers will pick this model as a project from earlier in the year)...
...repulse one Russian infantry attack...
...and face up against the Russian 8th Division
At the lunch break - this is a very civilised battle you know - the affair was finely balanced. The Russians had had the better of it so far, but the French were in a position to do some damage to them around the church and the Guards were threatening the right flank of the Russian 7th Division, that was now fighting in two directions. The Sardinians and the Forth Divisions were across the river and occupied the village, but were some time away from getting into the action.
After lunch the Russians renewed their attack with a vengeance. The 7th Division turned to face the Guards and initiated a sharp fight in which the Russians at first came off the worse. The Guards tried to drive the Russians off, but with still some ten battalions in the field against three guards and three highland battalions once again numbers began to tell and the First Division was compelled to retire. Only the arrival of the Light Brigade and the flank elements of the Fourth Division prevented the Guards from being destroyed.
Near the church the French failed to exploit some disorder in the Russian lines. Here The odds were more even with sixteen Russian battalions facing thirteen French. But the Russian artillery was devastating and the French, unable to deploy out of their three battalion deep formations were knocked back. When the Russians extended further to the left, far beyond the French line, the French were compelled to give ground. What had looked like a promising position before lunch had turned completly around. Even the French position in the church yard was in the balance.
Looking along the line of 8th Division
The Cossacks had withdrawn from in front of the Fourth Division and the Sardinians who were now free to move.
It was now around 4:30 and drinks on the deck were calling so the game was called. The victory points were only marginally in the Russian favour, largely because the Allies had hald onto all of the terrain objectives. But the church yard was probably going to fall and the Allies had lost two British and one French divisions. Victory was given to the Russians.
The 8th Division advancing
Would the victory have changed the result of the Crimean campaign? Probably not. The Russian 7th and 8th Divisions were pretty much fought out and it seemed unlikely that the Russians would have been able to push any further. The Allies still had eleven fresh battalions and five batteries close to the Russian line of retreat. Menshikov, on the other hand, had very few reserves and none on the field.
The victory would have certainly helped to recover the Prince's reputation and would have tarnished Raglan's.
It was particulRly pleasing for me to see these great armies, that have been the focus of my painting efforts for twenty-seven months, on the table and being used.