16th of June 1815 The battle of Quatre Bras v.1

Introduction

After the rushing French advance from the previous day that opened the campaign, this strategic crossroads that leads to Ligny became a keystone, as it was the connection between the current allied positions. Blucher planned his stand at Ligny believing his right flank would be reinforced by Wellington’s troops coming from Quatre Bras. And Napoleon, once he discovered that the Prussian army was offering battle, conceived a plan for pinning Blucher's troops until the arrival of reinforcements through the same road in order to destroy the Prussian army (his main goal at that very moment). In his own words "The Prussians have been caught flagrante delicto as they were seeking to join the English".

As the battle of Ligny was materializing, Wellington hastened his troops to advance, and Napoleon began to hurry Ney to attack. At 14:00, at last, Ney launched the expected assault on Quatre Bras. Thus, the battle for the control of the crossroads so vital for the fate of the campaign began. Throughout the evening, one after the other, orders of the emperor urging Ney to take the crossroads and march to Ligny in his assistance, kept coming. Meanwhile, Wellington desperately tried to hold his ground, expecting that the continuous arrival of reinforcements would save the day.

Map
Map notes

Quatre Bras, Thyle and Sart-Dame-Avelines have a +2 combat modifier.

Petit Pierrepont, Grand Pierrepont, Gemincourt and Piraumont have a +1 combat modifier.

The pond may not be entered by any units.

The Allied on-table forces are set up first.

If desired one base of 1B/2db/IA may start detached at Piraumont.

Petit Pierrepont, Grand Pierrepont, Gemincourt and Piraumont are small BUA (1,5”x1,5”) and a maximum of 2 infantry bases and 1 artillery battery may be deployed in each of them.

Cavalry or artillery units that are in any portion of the Gemincourt Stream between Materne Pond and Gemioncourt for any part of their movement are immediately disordered.

The Bois the Bossu is considered an open wood area.

OOB
French OOB
Allied OOB
Game Length and sequence

13:30 pm to 20:30 pm.

The French are the first side.

The French start with the initiative marker.

Arrival Times
French

13:30 – Ney, Reille, 5/II, 9/II, C/II & artillery batteries from II Corps, deployed in any desired formation and facing, at D2 & D3.

14:00 – 6/II in march column formation on D2 road end.

14:30 – IIIC deployed at D2 & D3.

Allied

14:00 – 3C in march column formation on A1 road end.

14:30 – 5/R in march column formation on A2 road end.

15:00 – Wellington and B/R (less B/R artillery) in march column formation on A2 road end.

16:00 – 3/IA in march column formation on A1 road end.

18:00 – 1/IA in march column formation on A1 road end.

18:30 – B/R artillery in march column formation on A2 road end.

Due to the arrival of reinforcements the army morale of both armies increases as the day progresses. Check the following table to find the Army Morale at any time.

The fatigue of II Corps and IA also varies due to reinforcements.

At 13:30 the fatigue of the II is 3F instead of 4F, but once 6/II arrives at 14:00 it becomes 4F for the rest of the game.

The fatigue of IA is 2F at 13:30, rises at 3F at 16:00 and it is 4F at 18:00.

Options
Free rolls

The French get 5 free rolls and the Allies get 5.

Abilities
French

1B/5/II - mixed with light battalions.

1B/6/II - mixed with light battalions.

2B/9/II - mixed with light battalions.

Allies

2B/3/IA - mixed with light battalions.

1B/2Db/IA - combined with militia.

1B/5/R – mixed with light battalions.

2B/5/R – battle hardened infantry.

Ney lack of staff

As Marshal Ney has just received his command, he lacked a proper staff and aide-de-camps (only Colonel Heymès was attached to him) and they had to be provisionally provided by supernumerary officers from the guard regiments under his command. To represent this fact, the span of Ney should be reduced to 5 inches instead of 10 inches. An alternative label is provided and the victory points should be adjusted, thus the French player adds 5 points to his final victory points.

Committing the guard

Although Ney has been given command of the Guard Light Cavalry, he was forbidden to use them by the emperor. As more and more allied reinforcements arrived and once Ney was informed that the I Corps of d’Erlon was not arriving on time, the desperate Ney could have been tempted to throw them into the fray. To reflect this, the G/L can arrive as a reinforcement at any turn after 17:00 (they were close at the rear), as desired by the French player. But if this option is used, any casualty scored on the L/G is counted as three time its normal value in victory points and victory points should be adjusted in the following way:

Quatre Bras – 45/51 Allied/French.

Gemioncourt – 15/17 Allied/French.

Grand Pierrepont – 5/6 Allied/French.

Thyle – 20/23 Allied/French.

Prince of Orange in command

Until the arrival of Wellington, the Prince of Orange may be considered the overall commander for the Allied army, thus a 10 response is used instead of 6. Once Wellington arrives the Prince of Orange uses his normal response.

Brunswick 3rd Light Battalion reinforcement

This battalion was left in the rearguard until late in the evening, and they arrived at 18:30 at the battlefield. Hence, to reflect this in a proper manner an alternative version of the 1/B/R label is provided. This optional rule simulates that the 3rd battalion was not present with the main Brunswick reinforcements, but arrived later. If this option is used, initially the Allied player uses the alternative provided label (20 BwLT instead of 24 BwLT) until 19:00, at this time the former label is used and one base with four figures is added to the 1/B/R existing forces during the Arrival Step (if the unit is already dispersed, surrendered of has abandoned the map then the reinforcement is lost).

Victory Points

Quatre Bras – 45/64 Allied/French.

Gemioncourt – 15/21 Allied/French.

Grand Pierrepont – 5/7 Allied/French.

Thyle – 20/29 Allied/French.

Historical Quatre Bras

After a dashing start to the campaign on the 15th, the French troops arrived with the last light of the day in front of Quatre Bras. The Prussian retreat to Sombreffe left unprotected the road to Brussels. Only a few Belgian and Dutch troops, supposedly in cover behind their Prussian allies, defended now the crucial crossroads of Quatre Bras.

Fortunately for the Allies, general Constant Rebecque, well informed of the French advance, had the foresight to see the importance of Quatre Bras and choose to ignore the orders received, and instead of withdrawing to Nivelles, held his ground with the Dutch-Belgian troops against the French patrols and called for reinforcements. On 16th, Ney, who had just come to the frontline the previous day to take command of the left wing, fails to fully concentrate the troops under his command throughout the morning. Meanwhile the allies finally react, and they send orders for reinforcements to urgently come to the crossroads.

At 14:00, finally, Ney launches an assault to seize the strategic crossroads that gives access to the Prussian flank in the battle of Ligny. The roar of the guns at Ligny (which is 6km away) is clearly distinguished. Ney initially enjoyed numerical superiority and pushed the Belgian-Dutch troops back towards the crossroads, but when the victorious French were grasping Quatre Bras and the allied troops were about to collapse, Picton arrived, just in the nick of time, with his crack division, and saved the day. Then the fatal delay in Ney’s attack was revealed . If it had been launched only one hour before, the battle would have been over before Picton’s arrival. But the slaughter ragged for seven hours more.

Constant arrival of allied fresh reinforcements at key moments ended up turning the tide to the allies. As the afternoon passed Ney received order after order urging him to march to Ligny to assist the Emperor. But Ney had to watch helpless as the allies were reinforced, while he failed to be supported by the I Corps of general d'Erlon, which due to miscommunications marched and counter marched unable to participate in any combat that day.

Gradually, despite the French élan and the gallant cavalry charges from Piré and Kellerman, the allies pushed forward and the French withdrew to their initial positions. At the end of the day, the casualties for each side were between 4,000 and 5,000 to no avail. Neither commander accomplished their primary goal to participate in the battle of Ligny, but both negated the reinforcement of the enemy, which was a secondary goal. The French failure was decisive for the outcome of the campaign, as it robbed Napoleon of the decisive victory he was looking for at Ligny. On the 16th the French had a real chance to win a crushing victory against the Prussians that would, probably, have finished the campaign. Napoleon’s genius had again overwhelmed his foes. However the Prussian defeat was not severe and they were able to fight another battle only two days later. Next morning, while Ney was waiting for orders, Wellington became aware of the Prussian defeat at Ligny, and realizing that his army was now in danger of being in turn outflanked began the withdrawal to Mont Saint Jean.