|View over the battlefield, early on, from behind the Austrian left flank|
I was Massena, while Goya and Stryker shared the Austrian forces, their overall commander being Archduke Charles. I took along my own French troops, and the Austrian forces were Goya's. We followed the published scenario very closely - the only (insignificant) amendment was that we replaced the mystery French "Guard Heavy Cavalry" unit with a third Cuirassier regiment - it has been suggested to me that whoever designed the scenario identified the Carabiniers as a guard unit - no matter.
Because we stuck to the published set-up, my artillery was mostly stuck in the wrong places. What I should have done was get busy right away with the double-moves which Ramekin allows, to get my artillery better placed. Didn't happen, of course, because I was immediately up to my neck in muck and bullets as the Kaiserliks set about the village.
The big Austrian line units have a scary amount of firepower, and they performed well - their only disadvantages are that they are slow, and are not allowed double moves, though they can certainly get a shift on when they are retiring, since they get double retreats for the C&CN flag symbol rolls. Their distinctive battaillon-masse tactic also proved to be a major discouragement to my late cavalry attack - without horse artillery (or aerial support) there was not much I could do against them.
The Austrians made excellent use, throughout, of the Combined Arms Attack rule, using artillery (including one particularly effective Grand Battery on the little hill north of the village) very effectively to support infantry attacks on the various bits of the town. I took heavy casualties very quickly, and was steadily pushed out of the town - I hung on to the extreme east end of the place, and I held the church for a while, until, again, the Austrians brought up a foot battery and blew me out of there.
So the French were very quickly well behind on Victory Points, including extra ones for possession of the majority of the town, and I only made the margin of defeat anything like respectable with a grand charge of cavalry (historically authentic, by the way) which took out the pesky Grand Battery and wrecked the Austrian cavalry. With everyone beginning to show signs of fatigue, Bellegarde's troops eventually claimed the necessary 12th VP, and the French were beaten [but only until the following day!].
Yes, it was pretty decisive. Once again, my sincere thanks to my colleagues/opponents for their company and good humour, and to Goya for all his hard work organising and setting up, and for slaving in the galley.
|Already some casualties, but the Archduke isn't hanging about here|
|Grenzer troops and Jaegers - good shooting...|
|Austrians well-established in Aspern|
|French cavalry getting moving on the right flank|
|General Legrand brings up some fresh troops from his division (not easy to find) to try to take back part of the village; they failed, and he himself became a casualty in the attempt|
|Massena still hasn't moved, but he can see that the village is a lost cause - he gets the cavalry advancing on his right flank (far right of the table)|
|Looking from the Austrian right, round about the same stage of the battle|
|D'Espagne mops up the rest of the Grand Battery (half of it has already gone) with the 2nd Cuirassiers. Archduke Charles looks a bit close to the action in the background. Note the impressive row of white VP counters...|
|But the heavy cavalry had no answer to the battaillon-masse tactics of the Austrian line infantry, so concentrated their attention on the cavalry - this went far better...|
|As D'Espagne's French cuirassiers attack the mounted Austrians, Marulaz brings up the French light cavalry to attack the uhlans on the hill|
|Some things can just be relied on - like death and taxes, the 15eme Chasseurs are always around somewhere|
|The battle is more or less lost, but Molitor attempts to take back part of the village - borrowing the successful Austrian tactic of supporting the infantry with artillery in a Combined Arms attack|
|Situation at the end - the French cavalry have pulled back to avoid the fire of the Austrian infantry. Massena is running out of friends, but he knows Lannes is coming to sort things out tomorrow!|
|Special mention - Goya's new Landwehr unit are plastic (gasp) - very nice too - they did well. Goya is reluctant to spend too much on figures for the Landwehr or militia, since he is uneasy about making much of an effort to arm the masses.|
***** Late Edit *****
Since the only reaction to this post thus far today has been a couple of emails which indicated that at least two of my readers are confused, I must offer my apologies for a very poor bit of editorial work here. Having thought further about the matter, I confess that I am now a bit confused myself.
To clarify: this is not a description of the first day of a 2-day wargame (I wish it was!), it is a description of a wargame based on the first day of Aspern-Essling, which was a real battle which lasted two days, and my suggestion here that the French might go on to win after two days is not based on history, it merely expresses the French commander's expectation after wargaming the first day's action. After all, the French would probably not have chosen to fight on if they had expected to lose, I guess.
Which brings me to the second point. Was Essling actually a French defeat? I have always believed it to be so - famously so, in fact. Yet Prof De Vries points out (correctly) that Essling was a battle-honour on French Napoleonic battle flags - the 1812 issue of flags showed this honour for a great many regiments. The Professor reckons that the French (like everyone else, he says) only awarded battle honours for victories - the later example of La Moskowa (Borodino) being explained since the French regard it as a victory. Thus, says he, Essling must be another disputed result.
I confess I have always been sort of aware of this apparent paradox, but had managed to avoid thinking it through. I did a quick bit of reading today, and it seems that battle honours were awarded to regiments which performed well at battles commanded by Napoleon himself (which is why you will not find Tarragona, for example). The small matter of whether or not he won was not normally an issue, as we know.
All fine - looks like I learned something I should already have known, and if it turns out that the Professor is mistaken (an event rarer than a Napoleonic defeat) then that is indeed icing on the cake.