Sunday, 30 March 2014

Fere Champenoise 1814 - The twilight of Empire!

I have been trying faithfully to commemorate the major actions of the Napoleonic Wars as their Bicentennials fall, right from the opening of the Peninsular campaign 1807/2007 through to our project culmination of Waterloo 200 next year. So it was important to mark this battle, the last battle in the defence of France against the Northern Coaltion allies before Napoleon abdicated in 1814.
The table layout - no shortage of table space at the Uni!
They say truth can be stranger than fiction. Well it can be certainly stranger than any wargames scenario would dare suggest.  A hotch-potch brigade thrown together from a dozen part-time National Guard detachments, reservists too young or too old to be serving with the field army, even by the desperate standards of the French Army of 1814, considered fit only to serve as baggage guards; this brigade carves itself a legend in the annals of desperate last stands against the odds that will lighten the dark days of France’s impending defeat…

Pacthod's command - An artillery convoy and 6 battalions of National Guards...Hotly pursued!
This handful of children and old men fight off hordes of Russian cavalry for an entire afternoon and evening, desperate to fulfil their sacred mission to escort the Army’s last remaining reserve of heavy artillery and associated heavy, barely mobile stores many bloody miles to safety in the interior, so that even if Paris falls, as seems likely, the remnants of the army can be reequipped to fight again…They fight in squares, fending off equally brave and desperate charges by the Russian cavalry, painfully inching their way to the perceived safety of Napoleon and the Guard holding out at Fere Champenoise…

We see the gallant General Pacthod's command, played by Caesar in the middle of the table - his mission to escort the convoy of heavy guns and irreplaceable artillery stores to safety, or at the very least to deny them to the avenging foe.....This was a difficult scenario to design in traditional terms of winners and losers, players were encouraged to play in role as the umpire intervened to keep the game going between the onesided protagonists!

Alan had command of the Russian regular cavalry: L-R Hussars and horse artillery, 2 Regiments of Cuirassiers, 4 Regiments of Dragoons and a second horse Battery. His mission - pin the artillery convoy down so that it could be captured by the infantry advancing down the other road before it got to the town in the distance. He was supported by Bryan with 6 regiments of Cossacks... 

His opposition - Peter - led: a Regiment of Garde's d'Honneur in the foreground, 3 Regiments of Cuirassiers, and a Regiment of Hussars in the background - but no guns...

Acting as a speed bump to the inexorable advance of the Russian Infantry division, led by Austin, coming up to cut off the convoy, was Philip's command - a single Brigade of Infantry - but at least these were trained!


As the Russian Cavalry came up, the French horse manoeuvred to distract them from the vulnerable convoy, which Caesar had in any case managed to move smartly up the road...

So that a large cavalry melee was fought - Russian Dragoons against French Cuirassiers - where were the two formidable Regiments of Russian Cuirassiers? Without their support the Russian cavalry was forced back...

Meantime Philip and the French Infantry 'roadblock' were fighting outside their socks, bottling up twice their number of Russian Infantry in the defile edged by woods, even thought the Russian Infantry were getting the benefit of the Cossack support...

Following a blunder test, and a series of poor command roles, the Russian Cuirassier brigade decided it could best support the Allied effort from the rear...Accordingly a series of umpire interventions saw the long suffering Caesar cope with a series of unfortunate accidents with his convoy - broken axles, thrown horseshoes, overturned limbers in ditches....

Just as the Russian Infantry burst out of the defile with the French infantry falling back before them, the convoy limped to within sight of the haven of Fere Champenoise - only to find it occupied by the Russians! At this desperate time for the French, Caesar ordered the guns and stores to be pitched into a nearby swamp, so fulfilling his mission, only to hear that the Emperor had abdicated...

Overall feedback suggested it was an interesting scenario and game. Philip, here pictured with his habitual mug of tea, must have enjoyed it as he's prepared to make the journey down from Sydney once again in a fortnight to refight the Battle of Tolouse, the last action of 1814/2014!


  1. Sounds like a good time for you and your fellows.
    A very nice AAR with some good pictures. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. That's a very nice AAR of a great battle, especially like the cavalry melee...Fantastic looking pictures!

  3. Another lovely looking game Ralph. All those allied cavalry look marvellous. It must have been great fun for Alan. As Uffindel points out, it was the largest gathering of allied cavalry in the campaign. Probably since Leipzig?
    " can be certainly stranger than any wargames scenario would dare suggest". I could not agree more. It's one of the many joys of historical refights isn't it; the scenarios tend to be far more interesting and challenging than anything a wargamer can dream up?
    It's great that you fellas have reliably staged bicentennial games on or near the date. I'm looking forward to your game of Toulouse. Will you do the entire battle? We decided that it was a bridge too far for this year, so it's on the to do list, along with many others. Phil and his fellow 'riflemen' staged a beaut game of the northern sector a couple of years ago (
    All power to you!

  4. Thank you all for your kind comments. Unfortunately Toulouse will also be an evening game, so, even with Black Powder, doing the whole thing is out....

    I suspect we will either do Hill's Division feint against St Cyprien, or the main assault up the Heights of Calvinet...not sure yet!

  5. Great looking game. Trying a Craonne 1814 scenario myself probably twice this week.

    1. I'll keep an eye out for that one on your blog Bill!
      [We have Craonne in the pipeline too; now re-scheduled (twice!) for 3rd May.]