“There you are, Capitaine!” Dr Pincecourt sauntered over to where Cruchon sat under a tree, a book in his hands. “What are you reading?”
“Goethe. The Sorrows of Young Werther. One of the Emperor’s favourite books,” Cruchon answered. Pincecourt looked sceptical. “Why aren’t you over in camp? There’s another horse race. I just patched up Bouffard, because of course he wants to compete. Broken nose!” Pincecourt shook his head.
“Rammer,” Cruchon said without looking up.
“What?” Pincecourt stared at Cruchon.
“I presumed you ask yourself: How did Bouffard get a broken nose? The answer is: He was hit with a rammer. It’s an implement artillerists use to…”
“I know what a damned rammer is, Cruchon. But how did Bouffard get one in the face?” Pinceourt looked incredously at Cruchon. The Capitaine sighed and carefully closed his book. Then he looked at Pincecourt: “It happened like this:
As you know, the Austrians are pulling their forces together on the Northern side of the Danube, and the Emperor is assembling our army on the Southern side. The river here is a labyrinth of small arms and island, some of which are occupied by Austrian outposts. I was tasked to drive in one of those posts, manned by some Grenzer and a six-pounder. I had my own men, as well as a detachment of the 13th Chasseurs à Cheval, under the command of guess who?”
Pincecourt chuckled while Cruchon continued: “So we marched to the East of Kaiser-Ebersdorf to the so-called Mühlhaufen, where the Austrians were supposed to be. And indeed, there they were, already poised to march off – seems they had boats waiting to take them across the river. Well, I thought that capturing an Austrian gun might be a fine thing to do, so I decided to press the issue. However, I wanted to do it by the book, no unnecessary risks. I deployed my men in an attack column, with a skirmisher screen ahead and some skirmishers on my left flank. The plan was to force the Austrians to deploy to meet my attack and, when they were starting to fall back, have the Chasseurs charge in.”
Pincecourt chuckled again. Cruchon nodded: “Exactly. We had barely started to advance under heavy canister fire, when we heard shouts and galloping horses to our right. That fool Bouffard seems to have thought that I might take away some glory… So off he went like the branquignol he is, right at the gun.”
“Now the gun was, at the moment, firing at us. However, not even the Austrians are stupid enough to deploy a gun without infantry support. So imagine dear Bouffard’s surprise when suddenly a line of Grenzer appeared out of nowhere and delivered a volley right at our dashing heroes!” Cruchon shook his head.
“Being the mindless idiots they are, they just kept on charging and hit the gun. However, instead of tangling with a couple of artillerists, they now also had to grapple with Grenzer.”
“And this..,” Cruchon started, but Pincecourt finished the sentence laughing: “…was when Bouffard got a rammer into his face!”
“Indeed. Seeing their glorious leader wounded, the Chasseurs broke and galloped pell-mell back. Meanwhile, my men had been riddled with canister and, despite all our efforts, could not be persuaded to advance any further. I rode over to the Chasseurs, trying to rally them for one last effort, but to no avail. Bouffard was howling with rage and shame, blood on his face. Big disgrace!” Cruchon laughed.
“Well, that was that. I called the retreat and the Austrians, having no interest to pursue us, limbered their gun and went to their boats. Another glorious day for the French cavalry,” Cruchon added with a sour expression.
“And now, doctor, if you’ll excuse me, I have to finish a book.”
When preparing the scenario, I wanted one featuring a gun, as I had just finished painting an Austrian 6-pdr with limber. I remembered two scenarios by Michael Leck in Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy issue 86 which revolve around a fighting withdrawl with artillery. I took the second scenario right as it was, just exchanging the figures for French and Austrians (keeping our stats, however). I was unlucky when rolling for my deployment point, as I ended up directly facing the gun. Deploying the cavalry that early was a big risk, but I thought I might end the game with a coup de main before my infantry was shot to pieces. However, I was overeager and should have waited for all Austrian units to deploy. But the melee was actually close and I could have suceeded (even if Cruchon does not appreciate such reckless actions). However, the infantry didn’t do much better – the attack column was under constant canister fire, which is extremely brutal, especially when fired controlled, as Sigur did. Incidentally, we changed the rule concerning the attack column, removing the +1 bonus to hit it, as otherwise I can’t imagine a situation where one would want to use it.
And now we are almost at the end of our campaign – the next game will be the big finale!
As always, don’t forget to read Sigur’s version of the story at https://www.tabletopstories.net/language/en/2021/09/sharp-practice-campaign-game-10/! He has some very interesting observations on how Sharp Practice (and other Lardie games) can get us to do things in a certain way…