“Let me assure you, Mademoiselle, that I will personally guarantee your safety.”
Cäcilia von Pfünz looked at Cruchon from inside her luxurious coach. “Aren’t you a bit short for an officer?”, she asked with an innocent smile. “Huh. Well, I’m a Voltigeur, which means light infantry, and according to regulations soldiers in the…” But Cruchon never finished explaining the intricacies of French army regulations, as a shout from Sgt. Nonnette made him spur his horse. “Austrians! On our left flank!”
“Form line!,” Cruchon barked when he arrived at his column. His order was obeyed immediately and the French smartly formed a line. “Short!,” he thought.
When Générale de Brigade Louis-Gaspar Delabréjaude informed him personally that his mission would be to escort “a, ahem, special, ahem, friend of mine”, Cruchon immediately knew what was going on. After all, Delabréjaude’s Bavarian mistress Cäcilia von Pfünz and her eagerness to join her lover on campaign had been the talk of the camp for a couple of days. Cruchon had difficulties hiding his smile. “Seems that the lady got the better of you after all,” he thought. He knew that Delabréjaude had sent letters and even an ordonnance officer to dissuade Cäcilia from joining him, but to no avail – the lady had taken her coach and was already on the way to the army, which was on its march through Upper Austria. Cruchon’s mission was to intercept Mademoiselle von Pfünz and escort her to the general, and he had been looking forward to meeting this headstrong woman.
But where did those Austrians suddenly come from? He would have to have a word with Sgt. Nonnette about the duties of skirmishers… “Looks like their local militia, what do they call it? Landsleut or something,” Lt. Fougasse sneered. “One volley, and they will run.” “Hm.” Cruchon looked thoughfully at the tactical situation. The Austrians were approaching through an enclosed pasture, which would considerably hinder their deployment. “Send Nonnette forward, perhaps he can cut them off and scare them away.”
Nonnettes men rushed forward, but at that moment, the Austrian Landwehr formed line and delivered a volley, which was quickly followed by another one. The French skirmishers fell back with casualties and some of the men in the line started to mutter. “We have to box them in before they can deploy properly. I’ll wheel the right wing while you pin them down,” Cruchon told Fougasse.
Before Cruchon could give the order, however, two groups of Grenzer suddenly charged at Nonnette’s skirmishers from behind the Landwehr and drove them out of the pasture. To the Capitaine’s great astonishment, the Grenzer did not stop but hopped over the fence and fell upon the left wing of the line. The fierce assault drove the French soldiers back.
Completely flabbergasted, Cruchon tried to restore order in the ranks. He wheeled the right wing forward, trying to reestablish his line.
However, the Grenzer just kept charging and the left wing started to disintegrate. “I’ve heard stories about the American War and the Indians’ way of fighting, but I’ve never believed it. Those Austrians are savages!” Cruchon muttered. In vain, he tried to bring order back into his line, but the men continuously fell back under the onslaught. The Austrians had almost reached the coach. “Sod this,” he thought and pointed to a group of men from the right wing. “Follow me! Forward!”
Throwing himself into the fray, he managed to finally throw the Grenzer back. One group fled in panic, leaving their wounded and unconscious leader behind. However, it was too late. Austrian skimishers ran forward to save their officer and opened fire at the already shaken French soldiers, who finally decided they had seen enough and broke. “You cowards! Stop! Come back!” Cruchon shouted himself hoarse, but to no avail. The battle was lost, and so was the coach with the Générale’s sweetheart.
However, when Cruchon reported the whole affair to Delabréjaude, the general didn’t look too upset. In fact, he seemed almost jolly. “Ah well, nothing to be done. Glad you are alright, old chap. Life’s too short to die of grief, eh?” Shaking his head, Cruchon left. “Short!” he thought.
The company continued its march through Upper Austria. After an hour or so on some dusty byroad, they came across a commotion. Docteur Pincecourt, the brigade’s medical chief, had trouble moving a number of wounded. Seeing the sad scene, Cruchon immediately detached Sgt. Nonnette and his men to help the doctor. Pincecourt gave him a grateful smile. “Thank you, Capitaine. As you can see, I was a bit short-handed before you came.” “Oui, oui, just send Nonnette after me as soon as he is done,” Cruchon muttered and walked towards Lt. Fougasse. “Short!” he thought.
“Fougasse, sound assembly. We are marching. I want to chase those Austrians as long as the trail is still hot. I have given a personal assurance of safety to a lady, and I’m a man of honor.”
What a dramatic game. I like to think that at the end, it was really close – my Force Morale was at 1, while Sigur’s was at 2 – but to be honest, Sigur outplayed me fairly and squarely. Almost until the end, he dictated the pace of the game, and what a furious pace it was! He took a huge risk by placing his Deployment Point extremely close to my skirmishers, but I took the bait and had them run towards it, which resulted in them getting driven away and never recovering. I was completely caught on the wrong foot and for most of the game I just reacted, and badly at that – I had the strange idea that I have to restore order before I could conduct an orderly counter-attack. While I did this, Sigur dismantled my left flank – not with the finesse of the rapier, but with the brute force of the sledgehammer. When I finally got my act together and had Cruchon charge, I managed to reduce Sigur’s Force Morale considerably. However, he was in a much better position and shape, while the groups on my left flank were just barely holding on, so in the end, he got a very deserved victory.
However, Cruchon got some honor points for his charge, which also counts as a heroic deed in the eyes of Cäcilia von Pfünz, so maybe when he meets her again, she will be more impressed. And helping the doctor also gives me a physic as a support option, although it means Nonnette’s skirmishers will be late for the next game.
Sigur has also written an AAR of the game, which you can find here: https://www.tabletopstories.net/language/en/2021/08/sharp-practice-campaign-game-6/