“Boys!” Hauptmann Franz Schrammel looked at the eager faces of his Viennese Volunteers. “I don’t know about you, but I’m thirsty. I’ve heard there is a fine wine cellar at Gut Rebleithn, two hours marching from here. Let’s celebrate our victory, what do you say?” Enthusiastic cheers of “Vivat Schrammel!” were the answer.
Schrammel grinned. His men had done well, ambushing the coach, driving away the French and taking that strange Bavarian woman into custody. Boy, was he glad to have her out of his hands! “Rotund,” she had called him. Well, let Lieutenant Schenk deal with her. As Major von Eynhuf wanted to have a word with the lady, Schrammel had ordered Schenk to guard her at a farmhouse while he and his men went for a well-deserved drink.
When the column drew near the estate, Schrammel stopped short. Something was off. Silencing his chatting men, he looked for Lieutenant Gigerl. The Jaeger commander was already running towards him. “Seems we are not the only ones to enjoy good wine. The damn French are also here, and they are busy emptying the cellar!”
“Gigerl, quick, secure the manor house while I form line. We have to get that wine!”
The Jaeger rushed forward and were already at the doorstep of the house when a volley from the first floor windows tore into their ranks.
While the surprised Jaeger collected themselves, French jeers could be heard from the top floor. “Lieutenant Papuča, send some skirmisher around our left flank and draw the frogs’ attention. I have an idea,” Schrammel told the Grenzer commander. Then he turned to his men: “Boys, there’s wine behind that fence. Form line, keep steady and don’t mind the French and their fancy uniforms. Forward march!”
As the Landwehr advanced briskly towards the estate, Schrammel could see a French line deploying and manoeuvring to meet them. He spotted the French officer talk to the kitchen maid, but laughed when he heard the brave girl shout “Leave me alone, you Ungustl!” while walking away.
While the French were still manoeuvering their line, Schrammel decided that it would be good for morale to get the first volley in and ordered his men to fire. The volley hit the French hard and his enthusiastic men continued to load and fire. Schrammel knew that it would be difficult to get them back under control. Fortunately, he saw a small column of Frenchmen move towards his left flank. “Excellent, this means that the Grenzer sharpshooters are in position. Papuča, your move!”
Lt. Papuča deployed his men in column and marched them towards the Austrian right flank. He hoped that, while the Landwehr pinned the French main force and the skirmishers lured the others over to the left, his men could nimbly slip around at the right flank and block the foragers’ escape.
While a fierce and brutal exchange of musketry took place in the center at almost point-blank range, the Grenzer hurried to the right. Schrammel knew that his men couldn’t stand indefinitely against the French regulars, but he was quite content with their performance – they sure gave as good as they got. Unfortunately, this could not be said of the Jaeger, who started to fall back under the fire of the French skirmishers in the mansion. When Gigerl was hit and fell, his men completely lost their nerves and broke.
Lt. Papuča and his men were crossing the paddock when two disordered groups of Frenchmen charged them in the flank. “Getting desperate, aren’t we?,” thought Schrammel. “Ha, look at the brave Grenzer chasing them away!”.
And indeed, the Grenzer brushed the French away with ease and continued their march. However, Schrammel could also see that the foragers’ wagon was fully loaded and ready to go. “Hurry up, Papuča!”, he shouted. “Victory is almost ours!”
But then another volley hit his line and suddenly his men started to waver. “No!”, he cried, “Stand firm, you Fetznschedln! Can’t you see that Papuča has them outflanked!” But the volunteers had had enough. They started to fall back and, after another volley, they finally broke and ran.
With the main line broken, the Grenzer were in an untenable position and retreated in good order. The fight was over and the wine was gone.
Ten minutes later from a safe position, Schrammel and Papuča watched the French march away from the estate fully laden and in good spirits. “Fixlaudon!”, Schrammel cursed. “What do we do now?,” asked a weary Papuča. “Now,” Schrammel sighed, “now we go looking for my men.”
Wow, this was a very dramatic game full of suspense until the last moments. I was quite happy with my performance – Sigur took my bait and deployed his troops to secure his right flank (and probably capture my primary deployment point), where I had positioned a group of skirmishers. When I launched my Grenzer column to slip around his left flank, he had to reshuffle his troops, which got pinned by the fire of my main line. The firefight between the main lines was brutal – we had one turn when both delivered a crashing volley. From that moment on, it was a race for time. A very close game with dramatic as well as fun moments, such as Bénes’ failed attempt to sweet-talk the kitchen maid.
As always, Sigur’s report, which tells the story from Bénes’ perspective and has more information on the scenario and what happened afterwards, is available here: https://www.tabletopstories.net/language/en/2021/08/sharp-practice-campaign-game-7/