This cavalry battle opened the Battle of Leipzig and was the largest cavalry battle in European history. It took place South of Leipzig between the French forces of Marshal Murat which included the Corps of Prince Poniatowski, Victor, Lauriston and Kellerman, against Pajol’s cavalry and the Army of Bohemia under the Russian General Wittgenstein. What better way to celebrate a sixtieth birthday than allow Mr Andy ‘the Guv’nor ‘ Calxton to act as Marshal Joachim Murat and steal the show!?
Heavy rain had main the gentle slopes around the French position soft and muddy with very wet hollows not ideal terrain for cavalry, the highest point on the battlefield was the Galgenberg or Gallows hill which the French made good use of as an artillery position, this meant that the Allies would have to attack up hill against artillery. Napoleon needed time to concentrate his troops for the main battle so he ordered Murat to slow the enemy but not to get engaged in heavy fighting. Wittgenstien mistook Murats forces for a French rearguard covering a retreat and thus entered what is known as an encounter battle where a battle results from a chance encounter of opposing forces not an planned attack. As Murat deployed artillery on Gallows hill hiding cavalry behind it Russian Cossacks scouted the French positions. The battle became a typical cavalry battle of the period with the advantage swinging from one side to other and back again in waves as cavalry attacked were repulsed with a counter charge and then rallied as reserves forced the enemy pursuers to break off.. Murat was nearly captured twice but twice evaded the enemy with his usual skill and daring. The Allies were able to hold their own against the larger French forces because the French attacked in column while the Allies engaged the front then attacked the French flanks. About midday the Allies attacked and took Liebertwolkwitz after two hours of tough fighting which was the key to the battlefield forcing the French to withdraw their artillery from Gallows hill. The French attacked and retook the town at 4pm trapping some Austrian troops in the church and wiping them out but the battle had been a draw.
Don McHugh and a nefarious group of Clevedon and Yatton ne’er -do-wells had secretly and unbeknown to Andy, gathered the biggest game that I had ever participated. While Andy stole the show with the glamorous mounted arm, four other French general’s would act in support.
Kevin”there was nothing I could do’ Fisher was falling back at speed by the end of play, robbing Steve of any hope of flank support. Steve held Andrew Whitby off all afternoon and the cagey Austrians under Nick Fuller advanced slowly over V Corps.
By teatime, honours were just about equal but the birthday boy, Mr Andy Claxton had reached the Allied baseline. Andy’s wife and family, plus Don and the boys had done Andy proud. We finished of with a meal, surrounded by literally hundreds of exquisitely painted miniatures. What more could a man want for at sixty?
Murat’s performance had not been ideal and when he should have conducted a fighting withdraw he stayed and became engaged committing more and more troops to the battle. Only a lack of determination by the Allies saved Murat from a defeat, he was a good cavalry commander but lacked the tactical flexibility which the Allies had learnt from years of fighting the French.
So well done Andy!