Friday, June 3, 2016

Campaign Post Operations Report #21 - Tsar Alexander learns of the Prussian double-speak in Bohemia

The following message arrives for Tsar Alexander on 27 Aug 1813:

"Grand Duke Constantine:
to Tsar Alexander:

My Brother,
The Prussians have marched out from the Bohemian passes.  All of the cavalry rode away from my command at Komatau on the 23 Aug

Now on the 26 Aug the Prussian Infantry Korps has marched out, they are bound for Zittau at the orders of the King of Prussia.
There are now not enough troops to force a passage north into Saxony.

26 Aug at Komatau"


 Haugwitz, upon learning of this detail had the following to say:


Gott sei Dank!
Our force at Marienburg on the march at last, I take it. At the very least, the Russians must now cease to take the Royal Army for granted, how can the excellent Bluecher object to that?
Komisch, nicht wahr, denkt Euch, that we should discover it by evidently pilfering the despatch case of a drunken Russian Imperial Messenger in some pothouse at Leitmeritz, however, I hope that we are not being gulled into a false sense of security. It is the upon the fate of the Botschaft Grawert now, that everything depends, Euerer Majestaet...


 Alexander demanded an update on all known dispositions of enemy French and Friendly Prussian, Austrian forces as well as the current Russian troops.

This map was generated for that discussion:

Briefing Map for Tsar Alexander
As could be seen from the map, the Prussians that had been tasked to support War Minister Barclay de Tolly and had the Tsar's brother Grand Duke Constantine to bolster their importance had, in fact, marched out from the Bohemian pass south of Dresden, and were busy marching the wrong way around the mountains.

Certainly something must be done about this issue!


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Campaign Post Operations Report #20 - Kings meeting

In the afternoon of 26th August 1813, just as Imperial
Headquarters was settling into march camp for the day, King Fredrich William 

receives a guest, for whom he has been wanting to meet:

Julius August Reinhold von Grawert and a select double dozen of his staff and escorts have arrived at the camp.  Plans are quickly made to dine and discuss the important matter that von Grawert was summoned for.
Instantly a missive comes from Haugwitz:
 Euerer Majestaet, please do not leave your most loyal subject in
suspense-has his humble suggestion found Royal favour, do the gallant General von Grawert and the honourable Count von Buelow ride out with instructions like to those proposed two days ago to your Majesty?
The King of Prussia was equally quick to respond:  
Yes, absolutely, this is the right way to go. Let them ride out immediately, and in the meantime, let us send instructions to Blucher not to engage unless it is absolutely unavoidable. 
To which Haugwitz replied:
Let us hope that it is not too late...

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Campaign Post Operations Report #19 - Blucher's pursuit triggers the King of Prussia

Relentless in pursuit?!

Comes the title of a missive from the player representing the King of Prussia:

Hasn't Blucher received my orders to do nothing of the kind? Stories of an Austrian 'victory' at Bautzen are grossly overinflated, not to say misleading, and what we are seeking is a truce, at least, with the French, and certainly not for our trusty General Blucher to risk our army in an engagement with Oudinot or anyone else. If dear Francis can demonstrate that he has won a decisive action, and that the French are in full retreat across the Rhine, or if wonderful Alexander can prove the same, well then, that is a different matter, but the excuse that communications have been severed cannot now hold, surely, we are perfectly capable of issuing instructions to Blucher not to provoke an encounter.

More interesting is the reply from the Emperor, what does he say? 


Haugwitz was quick to chime in:

Somehow, Euerer Majestaet, I seem to have all the substance of the latest despatch snipped off, and only your own remarks to go by.
It does however sound as if Stein and his circle have been at work, trying to confuse your Majesty's policy with that of wild Muscovite Alexander and the August Habsburger again and sending out conflicting instructions, perhaps under the seal of Royal Headquarters itself, which in time of war is surely a capital offence, if those responsible can be discovered. Poor hapless Bluecher-we know how politically inept he is-has fallen in their snares and may have to be replaced, if he cannot follow true direction.
And what news from the French side-that you are so right to ask about!


To which came the reply from the Prussian monarch (partly in player mode):

Once again we have been thinking along exactly the same lines - if Blucher cannot follow instructions properly, he will have to be replaced. Does anyone have any suggestions for a suitable (timid, inept, bungling) replacement for him? Scharnhorst is of course still around but surely the natural choice would be Gneisanhau, who will set about building fortifications in the middle of nowhere as was his wont. Or Yorck? Or Kleist? Any of these would prove more incompetent than Blucher, I have little doubt.....All provided of course it's fair and reasonable to see Frederick dithering, in the absence of a substantial Allied victory, which Tim and I certainly do think is right, and of course also that old Vorwarts can be prevented from forcing a major action, which I suppose depends on communications and a lot of other factors.

The more I consider this scenario though, the more amazingly interesting it seems. The possibility of a Franco-Prussian rapprochement (which surely the Emperor would be mad not to accept) eventually maturing into a fully-blown alliance by 1815, seeing battles between Franco-Prussian forces and Austrian-Russian ones, with Britain caught awkwardly in the middle this time - James' point about the forces of progress - and numerous German states scrabbling to take sites - Bavaria, for instance, where would she stand now? Napoleon could well end up being on the throne until he dies (which of course James believes would not have been until 1850 at the earliest as he was poisoned by a distant ancestor), and we have a whole series of extremely interesting counterfactual battles. 

I have a feeling though David you're not keen on the idea of the scenario developing in this way....!!


Actually as Game Meister I was rather enjoying the crazy political banter and the wild ideas posted by these Prussian player schemers ...


then came a reply from the Haugwitz player:

I think the question with Bluecher was who was advising him-historically he is said to have appreciated his inadequacies in staff and administrative work and to have left the planning and strategy precisely for that reason to Scharnhorst and the other capable men, so if we could get rid of the men who were there historically and replace them with someone more suitable (as you so rightly observe, Euerer Majestaet, someone umsichtiger, if not zaghafter) then the old man himself would probably either fall in line, not quite knowing what else to do, or fall out with them big time, and get sacked that way. It is a pity in that case that Grawert, a thoroughly plausible commander for the main Prussian Army, if not chief of staff for alte Vorwaerts, is on his vital mission to the French general headquarters, but if this is not working out he'd be our man.
And indeed, it is not long since Napoleon bestrode the puny world like a colossus, who would have guessed even after Russia that his whole project had but two years more to run? Why are we not talking to him?
Not on account of the August Habsburger's glad tidings, the preposterous Scharmuetzel an der Spree, surely!


In fact this was the GM's reply:

Stop it?

 Heck no this is entertaining.

We are witnessing a 'possibility' in the time.

> France goes north - was a Bonaparte plan.

> Austria makes common cause with Blucher & Silesia corridor of attack.

> Prussia starts getting cold feet.

> Schwartzenberg becomes bogged down in military matters, neglecting
keeping a close enough eye on the Monarchs, who then start mucking
everything up!

What a debrief this will have! 


 Then came back a reply from the Prussian monarch player, with an interesting twist on the situation:

I'm very glad you agree. Initially I wasn't very excited about the campaign, as it seemed 'on tram lines' but once one introduces the possibility that the Prussians might get cold feet - and that Blucher might find himself out of a job - the whole scenario seems mighty interesting indeed, whether with the Prussians neutral (as after all they have been before) or even as French allies (which would make for the most fascinating wargames).

 Back in London I wonder whether Castlereagh's spies  - we will remember he had 'the best spy network in Europe' - will be informing him of the Prussian cold feet at the Imperial level. I'm not sure at this point that the British can do much about it, though, does anyone have any thoughts?


There I shall end this point in the action, we are just now after the Austrian Triumph at Bautzen and the Prussians are getting cold feet, considering negotiating with Bonaparte and have troubles with their top soldier being relentless.

The final question posed here is a good one, what information could the British have at this point?  What would the do?  What could they do about a rapprochement in progress between Prussia and France?

Any readers have thoughts to share?

Please do enter your comments on this development.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Campaign Post Operations Report #18 - Yet More Prussian intrigue

King Fredrick William III
Our Prussian ADC player had this to say on Oct 19, 2013:
Metternich on the King of Prussia at this time:
The King of Prussia, calm in the midst of a highly excited people, and by nature little inclined to believe in easily gained victories, even where his army thought them certain, was a severe critic of all plans (without himself bringing forward any) for the intended operations...
Seems pretty close to the way FW is being played, I think.
He displays the Russian army as such as being quite reluctant to press the war into Germany west of the Oder, the reconquest of Poland being quite enough for them; and suggests that if Kutusov had been alive still he would have prevented it, Alexander being the mainspring of the move when it came, and part of his boldness owing to the realisation that he needed to wrap things up quickly or lose the faith of his troops. One must wonder what effect the current inane countermarching and gentle skirmishing must be having on the patience of his generals and their men, as they contemplate winter quarters in battered Germany or the return march into Russia.
The Prussian army I suspect Metternich has trouble characterising-at the start of the campaign describing it as a nullity, later on he describes it as composed largely of fanatic volunteers, whose only thought is revenge, a war of extermination, as was the feeling of much of the educated people of the kingdom-which is to say, not a good thing from Metternich's point of view at all. There seems little doubt that both Unser Fritz and Metternich himself were thoroughly conscious of the national genie which they were allowing to escape from the bottle, and full of forebodings about what this would later cost them and Germany.
Francis he describes politely as a model of wise statesmanship, ripened by nature in the school of experience, and so on and so forth, as you might expect. There is no reference to the dynastic connection to Napoleon which he had established not long before, and which must be giving both Alexander and our Freddie some cause to wonder just which side the man will come down on in the end. Who was it who described him as a skeleton whom the worth of his ancestors had placed on the throne?
Is Moreau still considered to be alive, and directing the Tsar's military strategy? With Jomini? And is Duroc still considered to be alive and advising the grand bete?


To which the player performing as King Fredrick William III said:

Yes, it seems to me that without the influence of my dear wife, I will be reliant on news of victories to stay within the Coalition, and despite the absolutely masterful spin emerging from Bautzen, it is clear enough that my Imperial colleagues have in fact totally failed to destroy the French Army there, whilst nothing has been achieved either in the siege of Berlin. I really do see little point in committing Blucher to further marching up and down, with no clear objective, whilst I am looking to a reply from the many days now since the message was sent, meinen Herren?


More from Haugwitz:

Euerer Majestaet displays his invariable wisdom, if he will allow his humble courtier to venture an opinion...has a single man, pray, in the Habsburg army, yet moved a step closer to the rescue of imperilled Berolina? May we have an accounting of the number of guns taken from the enemy at Bautzen, the customary measure of victory in these cases, I am told? There has been time to count the guns, surely, by now, has there not?
What, not one?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Campaign Post Operations Report #17 - More Prussian intrigue

Haugwitz will not let go:

Indeed, Euerer Majestaet, always most perceptive, if I may say so. I should think that the slight inconvenience imposed upon the French Emperor by the skirmish at Bautzen may serve at least to make him take more seriously the approach which we are making on behalf of all Europe. He can see that there will be some hard fighting, should he press his ambitions to recover eastern Germany and Poland, but that there is an obvious alternative, in our proposals.
Surely the high regard in which the head of our mission is held by his French counterparts, and the able arrangements which young Steinmetz should have put in place for his conveyance, will have sufficed by now to get our message into the gilded salon of the Great Beast? Where is he said to lie, at this moment?
In the meantime, Euerer Majestaet shows great wisdom as always, and tapfer Bluecher should indeed keep his powder dry, at least until this new combination of the August Habsburger reveals itself as a fresh device. The Emperor Francis' little triumph on the upper Spree will have done nothing to secure the necessary success on the middle Spree, of course, and I would be very surprised if he really means to detach more than a tithe of his forces for what he no doubt truly regards as a pointless adventure; the relief of the capital, which should be as I have advised many times the obvious result of the policy and strategy of the King of Prussia, not the gift of the so-called allierte Monarchen, must come with Euerer Majestaet at its head, crowned with laurels and bearing the supreme gift of peace, with which purpose in mind the Army of the doughty Bluecher needs to be kept in being.
Where, by the way, are the reinforcing columns of our gallant detachment marching back east from Marienburg? Have they got lost in the wilds of Bohemia? Are they hunting bears? Would it not be convenient to wait for them, in any case? Was, aus Westen nichts neues?
Euerer hochtreuester Ergebener,


Players again were reminded that only a day had passed, for the 'news' to arrive ...

Then some thoughts came back on the proceedings:

... but my recollection is that FW
was a bit flakey all round, he needed his gallant wife to jack him up
whenever there was any fighting to be done, or even resistance to
Napoleonic impositions, and left to himself like the goose-down pillow
he tended to bear the impression of the last person who sat on him.

When he was well into the company of Alexander he tended to be safe
enough for the Allied cause, as the Tsar was pugnacious enough for
both, but my supposition is that some other advisers are getting at him
now, the more pro-French lobby that I have identified, for reasons that
may have to do with the way that the armistice ended in this timeline,
not sure about that...his capital being under threat yet again might
also have had an effect-and the way that the Prussian army has been
handled, no watchdog of the Nation but the Emperor Francis's poodle,
scattered all over Saxony and Bohemia on minor missions, will have
disgruntled a lot of senior officers and people with family influence
on the King.

He has also been roughly handled in the eyes of his
people and of Europe in recent years, one humiliation after another,
and Prussia needs to restore some prestige, one way or another. And the
people have stepped onto the stage of Prussian history, haven't they,
thanks to the equivocal contributions of vom Stein and the
Kruempersystem commanders, the "battlecruisers" as we might call them-
if the king is not careful he will have brought a People's Army into
existence to combat the French levee-en-masse and will have nothing to
show for it at the end. As this was the motif of Prussian political
history for the next few decades I don't think it's a stretch to see
Unser Fritz getting cold feet about more fighting now.

I was reading
Metternich's autobiography last night, in fact, and he is very
interesting about the Prussians at this time-he sees their army as
practically a nullity, before and after Luetzen and still more after
Bautzen, the Prussian commanders looking for an out and even the Tsar
willing to consider pulling his own forces back into Poland and trying
again next year. Everyone he meets (including on the French side) is
desperate for peace and keeping people fighting-when Austria is neutral-
is a big headache for Metternich.

Negotiations-I'm still in the bit
before the armistice ends, though-seem pretty easy to set up: it seems
like they exchange letters or low-level chit-chat to fix a time and
place for a meet, and then both sides turn up on the day, or they
don't. There aren't continuous front lines so finding a good spot which
both sides can get to is not difficult.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Campaign Post Operations Report #16 - French Orders

The French plans were never shared with any other players than the core French team:

Orders and dispatches from Napoleon and others
Written at 23.30hrs on August 24, 1813

Napoleon with the Polish Lancers (at14/24) to move cross country to 16/25 & then by road to 18/26
Guard Light Cavalry under Dejean (at 14/24) are ordered to escort the prisoner Bernadotte to Torgau, moving through Furstenwalde, Teupitz and Dennewitz.
ADC to take message to Davout informing him that Bernadotte has been captured and for him to parley with the Swedish troops at Schwerin. Davout can offer them safe passage to the Baltic port of Straslun where they can embark and return to Sweden. They have 24 hours to commence their withdrawal from the War, failure to comply will result in their being attacked by the Emporer and his Imperial Guard as well as Davout’s troops

The Imperial Guard (at 16/23), under Mortier, are to move to 17/25 with the Guard Heavy Cavalry moving to Furstenwalde; both advancing along the road.

Orders sent to Latour-Maubourg to move from Lubben to Luckau and send out patrols towards Cottbus and Elsterwerda.
Orders sent to Flahault to advance no further than Lubben and await Napoleon and the remainder of the Imperial Guard.

ADC with despatch for Oudinot – report your situation by return; I am marching towards Lubben with the Imperial Guard and I Cavalry Corps

Oudinot (at29/30) orders the troops under Drout (at 29/30) to direct their retreat northward towards Luckau

Oudinot to send orders to VII Corps and the II Cavalry Corps (at 28/33) to move directly away from the enemy to 28/32 using VII Corps Cavalry to cover their movement and provide a rearguard.

Davout (at 8/7) sends out the following orders:
To the Danish Auxillary force at Hamburg (8/1) to move to Gudow (8/5)
To V Cavalry Corps (at 7/8) to move to 9/8 via 8/7
To XIII Corps (at 9/8) to move to 8/7
To 9th Light Cavalry (at 5/9) maintain your position on one of the enemy’s lines of supply; should the enemy at Schwerin move against you then you may retreat towards Lubeck if faced by overwhelming numbers
To 30th Light Cavalry (at 10/7); I would commend you on your action against the Swedish Cavalry Division at Karstadt. However should they advance on your position I require you to move towards Gudow.

Despatch to Napoleon – My Emperor, my troops have been confining the enemy at Schwerin. Cutting their lines of supply has had the effect of their having to send a force out to secure their supply lines. This happened yesterday, Aug 23rd, and the infantry then retired back to Schwerin. The Swedish Cavalry Division however advanced into contact with my 30th Light Cavalry and received a bloody nose with their having a Hussar Regiment destroyed.
The comparative size of the opposing forces means that I do not have a force large enough to storm and take Schwerin. I have sent orders to the Danish Auxillary force in Hamburg to move towards Gudow primarily as a show of force and to give them something additional to consider.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Campaign Post Operations Report #15 - French Command disarray

Bonaparte was not a well man in 1813
Unknown to almost all players in the campaign at the time, indeed the GM was only aware that the Napoleon player was not responding to email contacts, the French high command was 'not well'.

Our Napoleon player, who has been doing Napoleonic games since the 1970's as was intrigued by the prospect of a intercontinental game, had been briefly hospitalized and was 'out of action' ~ while this made the communication gap with the Allied command easier to take time resolving, it did cause some concern ~ at least with the GM, where was our Napoleon player?  Was he alright?

Eventually we did hear from the player, then all went quiet again, still no orders, though not an issue as the front line commands knew what to do from earlier directives, it would become an issue in a few game days.

Then again, news came:

My apologies for lack of input this last week. I unfortunately had a relapse and was taken back into hospital.
I have been discharged, this morning, and my daughter has just brought me home. Although still feeling a little shaky I am positively loads better than this time last week.

Xxxxxx, bless her, wouldn't bring my computer/iPad into the hospital insisting I get complete rest. So I have a stack of mails to read and am tackling the latest first. (maybe not the best way)

I will get up to date with the progress of the campaign during today and get a set of orders etc off to you tonight/tomorrow am

Best regards

Once again we had a Napoleon player and the status of the French command was set.