Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Campaign Move 5

1200 to 1600 15 August 1813

General Wintzingerode – Commander 3rd Russian Corps

General Wintzingerode had not been warned that 6th Russian division had been ordered to “march to the sound of the guns” until they approached his right flank along the Domburg road just before midday.

At this stage the battle was inconclusive.   The French had recovered well from their initial shock, and were holding their own just west of Possneck.   The weakness of the Russian cavalry had prevented Wintzingerode from taking full advantage of his surprise attack.

As the Russians approached the main French battle line a series of skirmish engagements broke out.   Behind this screen the Russian infantry moved into position ready to launch their main attack against the French centre.   Then word arrived that 6th Russian corps had made contact with the Russian right flank.

Wintzingerode had two choices.

He could order 6th division to continue behind his battle line and form a reserve in the centre.   This would strengthen his main attack, and ensure that the French would be destroyed if their held their ground.   However he would have to halt his attack until 6th division were in position.   This might not be achieved before nightfall, in which case the French could withdraw over the river under cover of darkness.

Or he could order 6th division to attack along his right flank.   There was very little space, and the area was dominated by the French held woods.   Just west of the woods French cavalry were positioned to delay any advance.  

Wintzingerode met general Galitzin at the head of 6th division and requested him to drive west and take the only bridge over the river Saale.  If he could achieve this before nightfall 2nd French corps would be lost and would have to surrender.

Galitzin ordered his cavalry to drive off the French cavalry to allow his division to approach the woods.   His leading infantry brigade, supported by the divisional artillery, would attack the woods and secure the flank.   The division would then push on to secure the bridge.

By mid afternoon his cavalry had routed the enemy cavalry and his infantry were exchanging musket fire with the French in the woods.   But this fighting slowed his deployment, and time was running out.   He was confident that if he could reach the bridge he could take it.  It would be dark in four hours, his infantry could not reach, and secure, the bridge in that time.

He ordered his cavalry brigade to push on to the bridge without infantry or artillery support.   They would reach the bridge in time, but would be powerless in the face of formed infantry in square.  If the French had one or two regiments at the bridge they could still escape at the last moment.

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