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The Battle of Aspern-Essling

6mm Napoleonic Demonstration

Nominated for best demonstration game SELWG 2009

The game focuses on the battle action of the 21st around Aspern and in the open centre ground, recreated in 1/300 scale. The ground scale is 550 metres to the foot (30cm), 1 man equals 20, using a combination of Woodland Scenics, Irregular Miniatures scenic range and Hardcover Design buildings. The figures are all Heroics & Ros available from Navwar.

Rules are home grown as used at Maidstone Wargames Society. Scenery and figures from the collection of Mark Harris, with flags courtesy of Warflag.

5pm Ledru's Brigade Moves Up

5.45 pm The French Reserve Cavalry have been repulsed and retire behind the Aspern Flood-Dyke as Carra St Cyr’s Division arrives from the bridgehead

6.00pm Hiller and Bellegarde prepare to assault Aspern

7.00pm Fighting continues in the Gemeinde Au as St Cyr counterattacks

10th April - 19th May

After the Austrian declaration of war, in a lightning campaign, Napoleon defeats the Austrian Army under Archduke Karl, which has invaded Bavaria, then marches on Vienna, which surrenders on 13th May.

Napoleon is impatient to cross the Danube and force a crushing defeat on Karl, but with the bridges burned and a rushed crossing attempt pushed back, he directs his engineers to cross the river after seizing the mid-stream Lobau Island.

20th May

French Engineers complete the final section of pontoon to the east bank of the Danube, allowing 3 Divisions of Massena's IV Corps with Lasalle's Light Cavalry Division to cross and establish a bridgehead.

Karl has arrived with the army on the east bank and allows only light resistance, preferring to allow Napoleon to cross and fight with a river to his back. Austria must win the next fight to have any chance of gaining favourable terms from France.

21st May

Karl advances to the French position around the villages of Aspern and Essling.

Karl arranges for his engineer units to bombard the French pontoons with a barrage of floating debris during the next two days, disrupting the flow of reinforcements.

Aspern is the focus of fierce fighting, changing hands repeatedly throughout the day and ending it largely in Austrian control.

The French launch a number of cavalry charges in the open ground between the villages, forestalling Austrian infantry attacks, but failing to break the Austrian Infantry and their supporting Cavalry.

As the day ends fighting flares around Essling, but the Austrian attacks are beaten off.

Day 1 has seen a reinforced French force of 31,000 infantry, 10,500 cavalry and 90 guns largely hold their ground against 73,000 infantry 14,000 cavalry and 268 guns

22nd May

Napoleon is reinforced by II Corps during the night and launches a major attack at dawn, driving the Austrians back from Aspern and Essling, then launching the main assault, which bends, but does not break the Austrian centre.

II Corps halts, Karl bring up his Grenadier Reserve and launches local counter-attacks. Hiiler's VI Korps retake Aspern, defeating elements of the Young Guard.

Napoleon learns that the bridges have suffered massive damage and with the initiative slipping away is forced to order a retreat. The Austrian line cheers as II Corps retires.

The Austrians centre moves up and use their artillery superiority to establish a massive grand battery of up to 200 guns to hammer the entire French position.

In the afternoon an assault finally captures Essling, but is immediately re-captured as Napoleon commits the rest of the Young Guard to cover the retreat.

The French retire back to Lobau, conceding the battlefield. Napoleon has suffered his first ever defeat at the hands of Karl, having underestimated the ability of the Austrian Army to stand and fight.

The Cost

The total Austrian force engaged was 84,000 infantry, 14,000 cavalry and 292 guns against a final French (and allied German) force of 68,000 infantry, 12,000 cavalry and 152 guns.

Austrian artillery fired a staggering 53,000 rounds during the action, to which the French replied with 24,300.

Austrian losses were 4,288 killed, 16,326 wounded (including 12 generals), 1,903 missing and 837 captured (including 1 general, FML Weber, who later died) plus 2 cannon.

French losses were (deliberately) poorly documented, but were around 20,000-22,000 in total and the dead included the irreplaceable Marshal Lannes and two talented Divisional Generals, St.Hilaire and Espagne, with two more Generals captured.

The Austrians picked up 3 abandoned cannon, 14,000 muskets and 1,500 pairs of cavalry cuirasses from the battlefield.

The armies clashed again in the titanic battle of Wagram, which inflicted terrible losses on both armies and ended in victory for Napoleon, but failed to break the Austrian Army. An armistice was concluded shortly after.

There is no doubt that Aspern-Essling and Wagram saved Austria from total defeat and perhaps saved the Hapsburg dynasty. Aspern itself gave Europe hope that Napoleon could indeed be beaten.

Further pictures from Salute 2009 Military Odyssey 2009
Jeremy Claridge created these composite shots from SELWG 2009

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