Go to ...


The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


RSS Feed

The Battle of Hanau, 1813

The Napoleonic War, Black Powder, 28mm

The Edinburgh club is still on its seasonal hiatus, so Bill Gilchrist invited a few of us along to play a game in his wargames room – or garage. We refought the Battle of Hanau (30 October 1813), where the Bavarians tried to block Napoleon’s withdrawal back to France after the debacle of Leipzig. In the real battle, the French sent the Old Guard in, who smashed their way through General Wrede’s force, and so opened the road home. The question was – could we do the same? Bill commanded the guard, while I took Macdonald’s Corps (really a large brigade), while Ray Neal took charge of Victor’s small coprs, over on the left. The battle plan was for Ray to hold the left flank, and occupy the Allied reinforcements trying to cross the bridge over the River Kinzig, while Bill and I smashed through the Bavarians, commanded by Colin Jack and Hugh Wilson. Over on the Allied right Dave Patterson squared up against Ray with the Austrian contingent.Things went fairly well to begin with. My own small force – a three battalion brigade and a two regiment cavalry one, both supported by guns – moved forward against the enemy left, towards the village of Althof. Our guns blew away one Bavarian and one Austrian battalion, and forced two more to retire, but to the left of the road my infantry assault bogged down when the French were forced into square by marauding Bavarian and Austrian cavalry. Bill brought up the guard, only to have his cherished Guard horse batteries ridden down by a spirited Bavarian cavalry charge. We saw off the enemy cavalry, but the cavalry action had thrown our right into disorder, and we spent several precious moves trying to get our men rolling forward again, supported by Guard foot guns.Over on the left Ray was having more luck against the Austrians, driving them back between Neuhof and the bridge. However, he wasn’t able to stop enemy reinforcements massing on the far bank, waiting for the chance to cross the Lamboi bridge. Neuhof village remained resolutely in Austrian hands, despite all Ray could do. One of the problems was that the French were attacking at something like 1:2 odds. While the French troops were generally of better quality than the Bavarians, there was an awful lot of them standing between us and the far table edge. With Victor and Macdonald’s attacks running out of steam, it was clearly time for Bonaparte Bill to send in the Guard.While all this had been going on the Guard had marched onto the table as reinforcements, and began massing in the centre and right of our line, between the two main roads running north. Bill sent one brigade (division) up one road, and the other up the other, while his two brigades of cavalry deployed in support of each division. Things began badly when Bill rolled a succession of poor command dice, so progress was painfully slow. Mind you, my reinforcement rolls weren’t much better. I needed a “6” to bring on Macdonald’s second brigade (Corps), but a string of “1”s kept them off the table until the final turn. Anyway, on the right the Guard were held up by my own infantry in square, facing a mass of enemy cavalry and infantry.Fortunately their attacks weren’t particularly co-ordinated, so that bought time for Bill to bring up his supporting guard cavalry. A spirited charge by the Grenadiers a Cheval should have won the day, but instead they were seen off by Bavarian canister and musket fire.  So much for the second prettiest unit on the table. This stalled the advance again, with Bill’s Chasseurs of the Guard left fretting behind the swirling mass of cavalry and infantry in front of them.The prettiest unit of course were the Chasseurs a Cheval of the Guard, whose charge was much more successful. They broke an Austrian cavalry regiment, rode down a gun battery, and generally caused havoc in the centre of the battlefield. Rather less successful was the follow up attack by the Grenadiers of the Guard. They formed into line and advanced, hoping to break the enemy through firepower, supported by their own foot batteries. Instead they had by far the worse of the exchange, and after three turns the Old Guard grenadiers were either retiring or destroyed.  That pretty much took the steam out of the battle. That and the fact that Dave’s wife and dog appeared, demanding a ride home.Pretty clearly the French weren’t going to make much more headway, and so Bonaparte Bill reluctantly called off the assault. It was a Bavarian victory – one made all the sweeter because if it happened back in 1813, then Napoleon’s army would probably have been captured before they made it home to France. I tip my hat to Bill for laying on such an enjoyable day’s entertainment, and to his wife Helena for feeding us a late lunch. Bill’s inspiration for the game was the Histoire & Collections book on the battle, subtitled The Guard Fought and Won. Well, today they certainly didn’t!



4 Responses “The Battle of Hanau, 1813”

  1. 15th March 2021 at 6:38 pm

    would you have the OoBs on the game by any change.
    Our gp uses BP rules so OoBs would be great

    • 16th March 2021 at 10:22 am

      I’ll ask Bill Gilchrist, who came up with the scenario, and report back.

      • 17th March 2021 at 8:12 pm

        I will send all the details to Peter. ie OB, Troop ratings, map etc and link to my BP2 house rules.

        • 17th March 2021 at 10:34 pm

          Thanks Bill. You’re a star.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More Stories From The Napoleonic Wars