I thought I'd let you hear the sound of a few different voices other than my own for a change. This is an After-Action Report by four players from four different points of view. The players were supposed to include Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, hence the 'Gospels' reference in the title. As it happened, John couldn't make it, so the fourth voice here is that lesser-known apostle, Phil. The game was a Crimean War scenario from the Bloody Big European Battles! scenario book: The Battle of the Chernaya (1855), the Russians' last major attack on the Allies besieging Sevastopol. Crispin created another of his custom terrain mats for it, painted the armies and ran the game.
I'll shut up now and let the four apostles and the photos from Crispin and Dave tell the story.
Quick summary of events in four photos by Crispin:
1. (Looking west along the line of the Chernaya. Russians attacking from the right. White objective markers on the four Fedoukine Heights top centre, Kamara village lower left, Mt Hasfort and the Sardinian outpost lower right.) Russians attack and push Sardinians out of their forward Outpost.... but
Sardinians recapture after an initial repulse... Russians withdraw to lick their
2. Main Russian thrust in the centre manages to push French off two of the
Fedoukine Heights (west and middle) with considerable losses on both sides ...
3. Allies commit their cavalry and then infantry reserves to ensure further
Heights are not lost. All four reserve contingents committed but with no loss of VP for the
Allies!!! (Scenario rule requires a die roll for each contingent committed, the more the riskier.)
4. Russian cavalry manages to sneak around the Italians' right flank and attempts
to 1) get into Kamara (but gets blown away...) and 2) assault Italians in their
Outpost - managed to push one unit back but not enough to reclaim the Outpost
as a VP .... all on the last turn!
So it ended up as a draw .... but .... it could easily have been a Russian
win ... Great fun.
The Gospel According to Matt (Allied Reserve)
As the commander of the Allied Reserve I
could only express my astonishment as messenger after messenger emerged through
the strangely stubborn mist bringing tales of a dangerous attack. But far from
showing ‘significant alarm’ we kept our sang froid, rolling a truly
astounding four ones in succession when testing for committing each of the
reserve forces. If only I’d known ones would be rolled I would have committed
them sooner! As the mist slowly cleared giving us a little more visibility, the
reserve cavalry saw an ideal opportunity to assist our Italian friends by
forming from column of fours into supported line and charging très
magnifiquement full pelt onto the Fedoukine Heights. Unfortunately the fog
still obscured several Russian batteries and in an all too familiar
outcome half the horse were blown away in minutes. Not to be disheartened the plus
courageux other half, from subsequent reports led by a certain Flashman
(mostly his own as one of the few survivors), charged again up the steeply held
slopes into the flank of yet more Russians (who seemed to be everywhere!)
before following their brethren into oblivion. This discouraged the enemy long
enough to buy time for the rest of our reserve to deploy, no doubt prompting
more thrilling verse from Lord Tennyson to entertain generations for years to
come! As my colleague General Pellissier stubbornly gave ground the reserve
manoeuvred carefully to steady our collapsing line on the Fedoukine heights
just in time to hold the last gasp of the Russian attack here. No doubt L'Empereur will be gratified to learn the Imperial Guard barely got their
uniforms dirty and yet will claim all the glory, as usual!
Deadly Russian artillery dice blow away British cavalry (top right)
Second and final British cavalry charge - a noble sacrifice.
The Gospel According to Luke (French C-in-C)
French 2nd Corps
Under cover of
heavy fog we were attacked to our right front on the Middle Fedoukine Height by
a mass of Russian infantry, perhaps six divisions with a further four in a
second wave. They came on in the old way in depth at the point of the bayonet,
and once our infantry had rapidly and calmly repositioned itself to form a
defensive line somewhat to the east of our initial dispositions, we commenced a
storm of defensive small arms fire. Our infantry initially acquitted itself
well, particularly the 3rd division and the Zouaves with their new
muzzle loading rifles, though the full range of these effective weapons was not
usable due to the low visibility. Those units with the older muskets formed up
close to the stream line of the aqueduct and commenced volley fire. We appeared
to cut down droves of the Russian infantry but still they came on in wave after
wave. I regret to say the artillery attached to the Corps was unable to
contribute much as it was cut to pieces by a Russian grand battery operating on
the right of their line. Sadly, our brave fellows were swept away by a lucky
Russian charge breaking through first one unit and then taking others in the
flank, as there was an unfortunate angle in our firing line where it followed
the curve of the Middle Fedoukine. The surviving elements of two units
retreated in order to resupply themselves with ammunition, having expended every
round in the troops’ pouches, such was the fury of our volleys. These units
were glad to be supported by the reserve, including the Guard. The Russians
seemed inordinately excited at the idea of engaging our reserve formations but
were unable to push home the advantage beyond the Middle Fedoukine.
Whilst this was
all occurring, our gallant Sardinian ally, the young General La Marmora,
first lost and then retook the redoubt below Mount Hasfort, held it despite
infantry and later cavalry pressure, destroyed a harassing Cossack flank
movement with artillery fire, and was even able to throw a division, supported
by the Turks, into a sadly unsuccessful flank attack on the East Fedoukine.
We must also pay credit to the gallant but
characteristically rash attempt by the British cavalry to charge and disrupt
the Russian attack. To lose the entire Light Brigade twice in one war
illustrates a noble but impetuous streak. As a colleague said after a similar
tragedy last year, “C’est magnifique mais ce n’est pas la guerre”.
French firepower takes deadly toll of first Russian wave.
The Gospel According to Mark (General Read, Russian right wing)
From the Fedoukine Heights 3.00pm 16 August 1855.
To His Imperial Majesty Alexander, Tsar of all the Russias,
Grand Duke of Finland etc etc
In pursuit of your Majesty’s
instructions conveyed by General Vrevski, I arrayed my troops alongside part of
General Liprandi’s command in the approaches to the valley of the Chernaya. In
the absence of clear orders from Prince Gortchakov, we opened the battle at 7.00
am. Seeing the French had fallen back to the heights we advanced first across
the Chernaya and then the Aqueduct stream while our artillery deployed to
bombard the heights. On our left flank,
General Bellegarde seized the outpost impudently established by the troops of
the prince of Sardinia on Telegraph Mountain, forcing the enemy to commit almost
all of the Sardinian troops to turn him out again. He then skirmished skilfully
with the enemy preventing them from reinforcing the French with more than a
fraction of their force. The Cossacks, following Bellegarde’s orders, raided
almost as far as Kamara, according to their last report. In the afternoon,
having carefully assembled the reserve cavalry on their start lines he launched
a bold charge which almost drove the Sardinians from their outpost a second
time. I commend this officer to your Majesty for promotion.
About 10.00 am our troops, seconded by the reserve forces,
surged forward in a mighty wave and soon destroyed or pushed back the French
occupying the middle and east Fedoukine heights. These we held for the
remainder of the day, brushing aside feeble attempts by British cavalry and
Turkish infantry to retake them from the east. Such was the elan of our troops
and their devotion to the person of your Majesty that they threatened to take
control of both the south and west Fedoukine heights also and the French were
forced to commit their entire reserve force - even the Imperial Guard themselves -
in their efforts to hold their positions.
Though alarmed, the enemy did not panic and since many
devoted sons of Mother Russia fell on the field of valour, I judge it best to
withdraw at the end of the day under cover of darkness to rest and refresh my
troops. I have nevertheless, the honour to report to you the finest feat of
Russian arms against the French since the day of Borodino.
Your devoted servant
The Tsar's children surge across the Fedoukine Heights.
Every French reserve has been committed, proving barely sufficient to repel the Russians' last mass assault.
The Gospel According to Phil (Russian left wing)
The Ataman of the
Ural Cossacks would contribute a dispatch, but General Read’s superlative
account is a full, honest and humble depiction of all that happened and beside,
a combination of the after-effects of post-battle celebrations of the heroism
Majesties' Majesty's forces and the subsequent execution of an urgent mission to
provide close personal protection to the more deserving of Sebastopol’s
civilian populace, ensuring their safety from the clutches of the lascivious
French, frankly unspeakable Sicilians and the Turkish terrors, means that he is
currently indisposed and unable to add any further commentary that would assist
your Majesties' Majesty’s appreciation of events.
PP Denisovich (AdC)
enhanced. Denisovich got a whiff of the Ataman’s vodka fumes.
undergoing remedial training with the Third Section.
Cossacks try to sneak into Kamara behind the allies' right flank but are deterred by Turkish artillery rolling 9.
Matt's match-winning dice to resolve whether the scale of the Russian attack caused consternation in Whitehall: "We may have had to commit every man capable of bearing a musket, but the issue was never in doubt."
Update: Deacon Michael Welker has helpfully pointed out that my Biblical references were flawed: "
for history… Matthew and John were Apostles. Mark was St. Peter’s
secretary who went to Alexandria as bishop and founded the catechetical
school around 50 AD. Luke was a gentile convert, physician and
historian… missionary by Paul’s side for a time. Phil though was an Apostle though also there was Philip the Deacon (he evangelized Ethiopia)."