Capt. Camille Cruchot was nervous. “Hold the crossroads!” the adjutant had shouted before hastily galloping away. And now he was standing in some godforsaken Bavarian wheat field and waiting for the Austrians to attack…
Cruchot was a farrier’s apprentice from a small village in Puy-de-Dôme when the revolution broke out. A honourable, handsome devil with a pleasant demeanor, he was one of the first volunteers to join the army when Carnot proclaimed that the nation was in danger. Through hard work, he managed to rise through the ranks and obtain a commission. He has left behind his Republican tendencies and is now a loyal subject of the Emperor.
“Here they come”, his old friend Sous-Lieutenant Pierre Merlot murmured. Cruchot nodded. “Alors, mes amis, let’s get to work! Merlot, I want your skirmishers to harrass them from the orchard in front of us while I deploy the line.”
Hastily, Merlot took position at the orchard’s fence, from where he saw two groups of Grenzer skirmishers deploying. He took them under fire, but they gave back in kind – or even worse, as their superior rifles made the situation untenable for long and the French had to fall back.
“I don’t like it,” Cruchot thought – a thought that would come to him many more times during this battle, with gradually more expletives added.
For the moment, though, the Light Infantry deployed in good order. Cruchot sent Sgt. Nonnette with another group of skirmishers through the woods on his right flank. They would hopefully draw off some Austrians or even be able to outflank them.
The Austrians had meanwhile deployed two groups of their own infantry in the center, while Grenzer Sharpshooters tried to get into the French left flank. Cruchot advanced in one large line, but then detached his two right groups to guard the flank, while the center groups adcanced into the orchard. Although the Austrians were still at long range, he decided to open fire, as he didn’t want to get lured away from the crossroads he was tasked to guard.
The French salvo inflicted some shock on the Austrians, which promptly faced about and marched back. Would it be that easy? Where the Austrians already giving up? Unfortunately, no. However, Cruchot sensed a chance, as the lumbering Austrians were still within range. He immediately ordered his men to fire at will. This was to be a mistake: Blasting away like there was no tomorrow, they ran through their ammunition at an appalling rate without inflicting any real damage. Also, the smoke, noise and excitement made it impossible for Cruchot to make himself heared.
Meanwhile, Merlot had withdrawn the survivors of his group to the woods, where Nonnette was threatening the Austrian left flank. The Austrian commander, Major Deček, personally led two groups with colours flying into the woods to check the French. Still trying to get his men under control, Cruchot could not discern what was going on in the woods, but it seemed that there was chaotic close-quarter fighting which led to Merlot being taken prisoner. However, the French also managed to capture an Austrian officer.
Suddenly, the Austrians withdrew the troops from their right flank and moved them to their left. To Cruchot, it looked like they intended to break through the woods. He was sorely tempted to advance his left flank line and fall upon the manoeuvering Austrians, but again he was afraid of leaving his objective uncovered. Leaving his madly shooting men, he personally took command of the flank groups and marched them over to the woods, where he could already hear excited shouts of “Vorwärts, Vorwärts!” – the Austrians were breaking through the trees.
To Cruchot, the whole situation looked dire. The capture of his old comrade Merlot had hit him hard, and the breaking down of his skirmish screen meant that his right flank was wide open. Shouting himself hoarse, he at least managed to get the central line under control and immediately sent one group to cover his left flank, where the Grenzer were again pressing forward.
Seeing the Austrian Major with the colours moving through the woods, Cruchot decided to stake everything on one card: “Chargez! Chargez!”
One of his dispersed groups was the first to hit the Austrians, but they were thrown back. Then he himself led his men forward and a brutal melee ensued. On both sides, men fell or ran away, until Cruchot, already wounded, stood face to face with Deček, who was also bleeding. With an angry snarl, Cruchot launched himself at the Austrian. After some cautious faints and parries, Major Deček launched an all-out attack which showed the superior swordsmanship of the Austrian. Desperately fighting for his life, Cruchot held on for a while but in the end succumbed to the sword of his foe.
Seeing their Capitaine fall and the line in disorder, the French troops broke and routed. Loud shouts of “Vivat!” were heard as the Austrians advanced on the crossroads.
When Cruchot came to, he found himself lying on some straw in what was painfully obvious to be a moving vehicle. Sitting beside him was Sous-Lieutenant Merlot: “I patched you up, but we are prisoners, old grognard. And you need some rest.” Sighting, Cruchot let lose a feebly string of expletives. Oh how he hated Bavaria!
Will Cruchot’s wound heal? Will he get back to his command and get his revenge on Major Deček? And will he finally get out of Bavaria?
Well, this did not go as planned. I blame the heat for my lackluster performance, but in reality Sigur got the better of me. My main tactical problem was to beat his forces while, at the same time, defending my primary deployment point. His combination of attacking and feinting, advancing and retreating, grated on my nerves and in the end led me to make a rather imprudent charge. The dice also were a bit adverse and my infantry getting low on ammunition while blasting uncontrolled at Sigurs troops, who – the impudence! – turned their backs on them really tested my frustration tolerance. I guess my habit of lecturing all and sundry on Clausewitzian friction came back to bite me.
Nevertheless, it was a fun game and I’m already looking forward to the next one, when we will join once again Capt. Benés.