Sunday, 29 September 2013

Sharp Practice - Un moment de friction

Last weekend I had the pleasure of playing Sharp Practice with my old friend Mike of Trouble at T'Mill over in Peterborough. He has already published an AAR which you can find here. Here is the French side of the encounter, through the eyes of Capitaine Le Gros. Each side had six groups of infantry plus one light cannon and was led by four big men, including Captain Fondler and Capitaine Le Gros.

The table including some very fine hedges & woods
There was also a hill just off-camera to the left
Messieurs, I have to report a small but significant victoire over les Anglais near the village of Gemappes. Our troops encountered a mixed force of line and rifles with one cannon in support led, it turns out, by the infamous Captain Fondleur. Our scouts in the village spotted some British line on the opposite side of the river. I detached Caporal Epinace and a cannon to open fire on them while my force, a mix of fusiliers et grenadiers, advanced smartly towards woods in the centre.

Corporal Coventry and the British line
There was an initial exchange of fire as the British targeted our fusiliers while our cannon opened up on them; our fire, it must be said, could have been more accurate. Perhaps Epinace needs glasses. Further to my left Lt Petain showed some hesitance in advancing on the British position, which was secured behind a hedge (as was he himself) while on the flank Lt Legume led his voltigeurs towards the hills on the extreme left hoping to out-flank the enemie.

French gunners target the riflemen (and vice versa)
Before long the British line had been driven back to shelter behind the woods, but a new threat emerged on our right; British rifles approaching the village and threatening to outflank us as we had only a few scouts there (a dummy blind). The riflemen were able to get the better of our cannon, with their dreaded 'Sharp Practice' and for a while things were looking less than than rosie. In the centre Lt Petain had decided to take his men further over to the left and had deployed them en ligne; I cannot understand why he did not use la colonne.

Capt Le Gros & Corp Coventry meet in the woods
Before all was lost j'ai graspé le moment and led mes braves into the woods and then on to shoot at the British cowering behind ze 'edge. Then just as the second group of British line came into the forêt, I rallied my men and we charged. This was the moment on which the battle turned. The grenadiers were in their element and the British were made to run. Meanwhile on the left Legume's voltigeurs had succeeded in enfilading the British cannon and their line, delivering a crashing volley which caused chaos in the British ranks.

Ltn Petain finally gets his men moving
It was now looking as though victoire was ours. Lt Petain had finally moved somewhere useful and came over to the right to counter the threat of the rifles. They did not give in though and the rifles skillfully withdrew to threaten my men, and cover their retreat. Sadly Fondleur escaped to fight another day. Next time, I will catch him. For the moment though les Ros-Beoufs will think twice before tangling with us again. Vive L'Empereur!

At game end - French skirmishers overlooking the retreating British
In truth the encounter was rather closer than Capitaine LeGros admits. The fact that he got the initiative, having a chance to first play a Standfast card to rally his troops in the wood and then a Pas de Charge to charge the British was decisive. If it had been the other way round and the British had the initiative, and a chance to use their Thin Red Line card, it could have gone very differently.

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