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Saturday
Oct242015

Syracuse (415/413 av. J.-C.)

Historical background: The Sicilian Expedition was an Athenian military expedition to Sicily, which took place during the period from 415 BC to 413 BC (during the Peloponnesian War). The expedition was hampered from the outset by uncertainty in its purpose and command structure—political maneuvering in Athens swelled a lightweight force of twenty ships into a massive armada, and the expedition's primary proponent, Alcibiades, was recalled from command to stand trial before the fleet even reached Sicily—but still achieved early successes. Syracuse, the most powerful state on Sicily, responded exceptionally slowly to the Athenian threat and, as a result, was almost completely invested before the arrival of a Spartan general, Gylippus, galvanized its inhabitants into action. From that point forward, however, as the Athenians ceded the initiative to their newly energized opponents, the tide of the conflict shifted. A massive reinforcing armada from Athens briefly gave the Athenians the upper hand once more, but a disastrous failed assault on a strategic high point and several crippling naval defeats damaged the besiegers' fighting capacity and morale, and the Athenians were eventually forced to attempt a desperate overland escape from the city they had hoped to conquer. That last measure, too, failed, and nearly the entire expedition surrendered or was destroyed in the Sicilian interior.

The impact of the defeat was immense. Two hundred ships and thousands of soldiers, an appreciable portion of the city's total manpower, were lost in a single stroke. Athens's enemies on the mainland and in Persia were encouraged to take action, and rebellions broke out in the Aegean. The defeat proved to be the turning point in the Peloponnesian War, though Athens struggled on for another decade. Thucydides observed that contemporary Greeks were shocked not that Athens eventually fell after the defeat, but rather that it fought on for as long as it did, so devastating were the losses suffered.

 

After Alcibiades is recalled early in the siege, Nicias establishes the Athenian camp and is able to quickly build a wall to cordon off Syracuse. Meanwhile, with the help of reinforcing ships from Corinth and Gylippus, the Syracusans are able to control the mouth of the great harbor, installing a chain to isolate the Athenian expedition. Both sides are now set to starve if they cannot break the stalemate.


The Syracusans make a desperate attack on the Athenian camp and manage to take it against difficult odds. What remains of the Athenian expedition is driven off as their camp is burnt down.

The Syracusans tear down the Athenian wall before retiring to their city, victorious.

Wednesday
Jan142015

Mariazell - 8 November 1805 (C&C Napoleonics)

Historical Background: Von Merveldt’s small corps had escaped capture at Ulm, and was attached to Kutusov’s retreating Russians, when he received orders from the Austrian High Command to march to Styria to aid Archduke John’s army. Realizing too late he had marched straight towards the advancing French, he turned to retrace his steps. With Davout’s advance guard under the command of Heudelet de Bierre hot on his heels, Merveldt opted to make a stand at Mariazell. Taking advantage of the natural terrain in the area his worn out infantry waited for the French.

Bierre, wasting no time, attacked with the French lights in the center and his light cavalry to the south of the village. The French cavalry attack broke through forcing many Austrians to surrender.
The Austrian Grenzers counter attacked out of the woods, but failed to capture the French artillery. Merveldt’s Austrians, after a brief struggle, routed.

Bierre orders the French light infantry in the center to open fire on the Austrian formation in front of them and artillery near Mariazell. The Austrians rout until rallied by Merveldt. The French order some of their cavalry on the right to charge in and finish the Austrian artillery, but take severe losses for very little result. (France 0, Austria 0)

With the Austrian response ineffectual, the French left pounces forward, inflicting heavy losses and pushing back the Austrian Grenzers. In the center, Bierre's light infantry easily weather the Austrian counterfire before sending more of them running in panic. (France 1, Austria 0)

Merveldy keeps his cool and reorganize his scattered troops around the town of Mariazell. It is now apparent that it is the French who are out of position and scattered. (France 1, Austria 0)

Merveldt's concentrated troops begin a relentless attack on the french, severely wounding the French light infantry and pushing them back. (France 1, Austria 0)

The Austrian keep up the pressure and soon the French light infantry is eliminated. Bierre's position in the center is catastrophic, but on their left, the French move up and clean up what was left of the isolated Grenzers. (France 2, Austria 2)

With a final advance, the Austrian finish off some of the French cavalry and Bierre himself. With their leader dead and in no position to retaliate, the French withdraw in panic. (France 2, Austria 4)

Wednesday
Jan142015

Schleiz - 9 October 1806 (C&C Napoleonics)

Historical Background: In the first clash of the Fourth Coalition, Bernadotte, at the head of Napoleon’s center column, moved against Tauentzien’s Prussian/Saxon division near the village of Schleiz. Tauentzien, realizing that the French were advancing in strength, sent Bila’s troops forward to slow the French advance, while he waited for reinforcements or orders to retreat. Bernadotte did not wait, but swiftly issued orders of his own. Soon Werle’s advance guard moved against the Oschitz Woods, while Drouet attacked Schleiz.

Murat’s cavalry reserve was to support the advance, although the countryside was not really suited for mounted troop action. By early afternoon the French could not be stopped and Tauentzien decided to fall back to Auma in an attempt to maintain a link with his outlying commands. The retreat came too late to save one Prussian battalion. Isolated by the French advance, most of the battalion was captured.

The French right under Werle charges forward to the Oschitz Woods but are easily forced back by the Prussian left under Bila. Once they have seen of the French, they pull back at the rear of the woods. (France 0, Prussia 0)

Werle makes another concerted effort to move up the French right, while the Prussians hammer the tip of the French spear near the center. (France 0, Prussia 0)

The French right creeps back into the Oschitz Woods, while the light infantry on the Prussian left withdraws out of the battle in good order. (France 0, Prussia 1)

The French right chases out the last Prussians out of the Oschitz Woods . (France 0, Prussia 1)

The French now occupy the Oschitz Woods and their left under Drouet moves on Schleiz. Meanwhile the French right and center press on the attack, overrunning Bila's artillery and striking a severe blow to his infantry. (France 3, Prussia 2)

Despite they aggressiveness, the French are too late as Bila and his fellow officers withdraw with their troops in good order. Most of the Prussians are able to escape the battle while the French are delayed. (France 3, Prussia 5)


Thursday
Dec042014

Amphipolis 422 BC (C&C Ancients)

Historical Background: In 424 BC, the Spartan general Brasidas led an army toward Thrace to threaten the only accessible part of the Athenian Empire. He reached Thrace and offered generous terms to the people of Amphipolis, who surrendered without a fight. In 423 BC, Athens and Sparta signed a truce, hoping to exchange Amphipolis for the Spartan hostages of Sphacteria, but Brasidas, against the wishes of the Spartan regime, continued to support the rebellion in the area. Athens ended the truce and sent Cleon with an army to recover Amphipolis. Brasidas would not emerge from the city for battle. Frustrated by the apparent Spartan timidity, Cleon began to move his troops back to Eion. Brasidas waited till the Athenian left wing marched past the South Gate, and with his best men charged out of the city, while Clearidas, his subordinate, emerged from the Thracian Gate with the rest of the Spartan army. The Athenians on the left wing fled to Eion, while those on the right fought bravely against Clearidas. Cleon was killed during the battle, and Brasidas mortally wounded. Athens agreed to stop the war and signed the Peace of Nicias in 421 BC. Sparta recovered their hostages and Athens the towns captured by Brasidas. Both sides would have time to prepare for the final phase of the war.

(The three white flag symbols on the right show where the Athenian force can exit to gain victory banners)

Brasidas charges forward with the Spartan right, intent on destroying the Athenians before they withdraw. While he inflicts some losses, the Athenian light troops easily move away. (Athenians 0, Spartans 0)

Most of the Athenian left leaves the battle, with their leader Niclas. The Spartans attempt, unsuccessfully, to destroy the hoplite force the Athenian left behind on their left. (Athenians 4, Spartans 0)

Brasidas, intent of stopping the hoplites of the Athenian left from leaving sends his light cavalry after them, which are completely routed. At least his hoplites manage to finish off a group of Athenian light troops. Meanwhile, Cleon on the Athenian right organizes his forces in a line facing the numerically inferior Spartans under Clearidas. (Athenians 5, Spartans 1)

Brasidas, relentless, now sends his hoplites to finish off the Athenian left, which they finally accomplish. He leads another group of hoplites against the center with minimal success. At the same time, Cleon orders the Athenian right to attack. Spartan light troops are battered but luckily manage to hold on. (Athenians 5, Spartans 2)

Clearidas leads the Spartan left in a counter attack, inflicting heavy losses on the Athenians. Yet, the outnumbered Spartans cannot contain the Athenians who finish off the Spartan light troops. Clearidas withdraws to Amphipolis, forcing a disappointed Brasidas to do the same. The Spartan sally is foiled. (Athenians 6, Spartans 4)

 

 
Saturday
Jul262014

Placentia 270 AD (C&C Ancients)

Historical Background: Aurelian became emperor in 270, and is remembered as one of the “soldier-emperors” who restored the empire after its near collapse. During his five-year reign, Aurelian re-united the empire after two-thirds of the provinces had broken away from central control. But first, Aurelian had to repulse a number of barbarian invasions. The most serious threat was posed by the Alemanni, a Germanic tribe that had made frequent incursions into Roman territory. In 271 AD, after Aurelian had moved several of the western legions east to fight the Vandals and Goths, the Alemanni broke through the frontier forces and invaded Italia. The Alemanni horde first sacked the city of Placentia in northern Italia. Emperor Aurelian, who was in Pannonia (near present day Hungary) with an army to control the Vandals, had to move quickly back to Italia. The Alamanni learned of Aurelian’s approach and set an ambush for the Roman Emperor. They achieved complete surprise and defeated the Romans. The Alemanni continued their advance towards the capital, which produced great fear and panic in Rome.

The Alemanni immediately attack with their cavalry on the Roman right, but fail to achieve much. (Alemanni 0, Romans 0)

The Alemanni continue to press with their cavalry, pushing back the Romans and weaking their formations, but at the cost of one cavalry squadron. (Alemanni 0, Romans 1)

The Roman right regroups near the river, while the Alemanni attempt to skirmish while regrouping themselves. (Alemanni 0, Romans 1)


The Alemanni shift their forces to continue the attack on the weakened Roman right, while Aurelian begins slowly withdrawing troops across the river, while exploring the possibility of a counter attack with his left. (Alemanni 0, Romans 1)


Aurelian reverses his decision when the Alemanni attack the Roman right again. The barbarians are pushed back once more, but this time the Romans are perilously stretched thin. (Alemanni 0, Romans 2)


An Alemanni charge crushes the Roman right. Aurelian tries to consolidate his center, but the river hampers greatly any troop redeployment. (Alemanni 3, Romans 2)

With the Roman right annihilated, the Alemanni begin surrounding the Roman center which is struggling to withdraw across the river. (Alemanni 4, Romans 2)

The Alemanni close in on the Roman center and with their back to the river, the Romans have nowhere to flee. Many throw down their arms and armor, attempting to swim their way to freedom. Most of them drown, while many more are are trampled by the victorious barbarians. Aurelian, with most of his best men on the wrong side of the river, can do nothing more and decides to withdraw while he has an army left. (Alemanni 5, Romans 2)


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