September 30, 1813
Leutnant Karl Preysing sat his horse in utter amazement. Generalmajor Karl von Sahr, commanding the Saxon 25th Division of the French Grande Armee, had just informed him that the Saxons would conform to his request. They would switch sides and surprise the small Polish Corps camped just east of where they now sat, on the south side of the small river Niesse. Von Sahr had already issued orders to that effect.
Preysing watched the Saxons pivot to their right, screened by a ridge and their light cavalry. After fifteen minutes he was convinced. He saluted to Von Sahr and spurred his horse north, crossing a rickety wooden bridge and galloping to his chief, Feldmarschall Ludwig Yorck, to inform him of the stunning change.
When an ensign galloped to his headquarters at first Prince Poniatowski could not believe the report. The Saxons traitors? Impossible. But then he saw their cavalry in the distance, with his glass. They were moving toward him, not against the Prussians on the far side of the Niesse.
He reacted quickly. Couriers thundered away from headquarters. If the Saxons wanted to betray their Emperor, let them. He, Poniatowski, would make them pay! Just to be sure, he sent one last aide galloping furiously to Prince von Wrede’s camp a mile or so further south. The Bavarians might very well be needed if both Yorck and von Sahr attacked.
Yorck, equally as surprised, was equally energetic. Orders were dictated and send by aide-de-camp to each brigade. The small advanced guard (only half his corps was with him) was soon in motion toward the Niesse and the Poles on the far bank.
The Saxon Cheveauxleger Brigade opened the action by skirmishing with the Polish light cavalry. General de Brigade Sulkowski ordered forward his lancers in a furious charge. The Saxon cavalry fled. Sulkowski then wheeled and led his lancers headlong into Regiment Prinz Maxmilian. These unfortunates, disordered by Polish artillery fire, failed to form square and broke, running behind the steadfast Light Infantry Brigade. Von Sahr was already regretting his early morning decision.
Meanwhile Yorck had his men across the Niesse. While the Prussian cavalry threatened, the Converged Grenadiers Brigade and 11th Reserve splashed across and went over to the attack. The Reserves slammed into a 12-pounder battery, positioned to sweep the stone bridge, and sent the gunners running. But when they tried to exploit their gains, they ran into the 4th Brigade du Marche in the tiny hamlet of Ostkulm. The French held.
The grenadiers, however, in the open, had better success. Without pausing to reform, led by Kolonel von Pitt, they smashed into the Polish Converged Legere Brigade and sent it streaming to the rear. This then exposed the 1st Line Brigade who had squared to face the Prussian light cavalry. In square, against the already victorious grenadiers, the Poles had no chance and joined the legere in running.
On Yorck’s far left, the 2nd Pommeranian Brigade fixed the Polish 3rd Line Brigade, but suffered over 400 casualties to accurate Polish fire.
By now Wrede’s Bavarians were up and pitched into the action. The converged grenadiers, tired and disordered from their wild charge were now mercilessly ridden down by the arriving Bavarian Cheveauxleger. These riders continued into the Niesse, striking the Prussian cavalry and driving them back.
Count Beckers led his Bavarian brigade into action on the far left of the Allied line, striking the Saxon Grenadier Brigade. Supposedly the best infantry in the Saxon army, having lost their major and two captains to artillery fire, gave a ragged volley, and ran. Beckers, shouting alternately “En Avant” and “Vorwarts” led his men up a small hill and at the Regiment Prinz August who had just repelled a charge from the Polish lancers. August, in square, could not resist the Bavarians, and quit the field.
The opera had pretty much played itself out. Ganeralmajor Karl Le Coq had rallied Prinz Maximilian and led them in a desperate charge to try and blunt Beckers and the supporting Bavarian Light Brigade. But the Saxons, even under the direct gaze of their longstanding officers, this day, would not fight. Maximilian recoiled and Von Sahr gave the necessary orders to disengage.
The Prince of Hesse-Homburg had one maneuver left to try to wrench the Franco-Poles from Ostkulm. He brought the 7th Reserve onto the flank of the Polish 3rd Line Brigade while assaulting frontally with the 5th Silesian Landwehr. The maneuver was successful, but, by now, the Bavarians were up, bringing three fresh brigades of infantry to stabilize the front and allow the 4th Brigade du Marche to fall back unmolested.
Yorck called off his attacks, consolidating his gains, staring across a mere 300 yard gap at Poniatowski and Wrede. But, with Von Sahr in retreat, he was too outnumbered to continue. Von Bulow, with the rest of the corps, would not arrive until dark.
The Saxons had paid in blood for Von Sahr’s duplicity, with almost 5000 casualties out of 14,000 engaged. Yorck had suffered 1500 casualties. The Poles, hard-pressed and badly outnumbered at the start, lost almost 2000 men, while the Bavarians won the most honors at the least cost – capturing 6 stand of colors for only 300 men killed and wounded.
Played with Napoleonic Fury rules and 15mm figures.
Diatribes are simply often humorous recountings of the games played by the Long Island Irregulars. We play with toy soldiers and are unabashedly happy to have never lost this part of our childhoods..