Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The Wethau Bridge for Song of Drums & Shakos (I)

He [Augereau] sent GB Subervie’e 9th(bis) Light Cavalry Division with some voltigeur companies towards Wethau, where there was a bridge over the Wethau stream…/…The [Liechtenstein’s] plans drawn up at midnight, set the attack on the bridge at 6:00 A.M…./… However, a later report from his scouts about the visibly alarmed nature and attentiveness of the French post, induced Liechtenstein to revise the time of his planned assault to 4:00 A-M. Oberst Frehierr Veyder von Malberg led his 7th Austrian jager Battalion in the assault and the attack succeeded completely…. The French detachment in Wethau was overthrown, GB Subervie escaped being taken prisoner ‘dressed only in his shirt’.” (Taken from George Nafziger, Napoleon at Leipzig. The Battle of Nations 1813, Emperor’s Press, Chicago, 1996. p. 82-83)

It is almost dawn of October 10. Hauptmann Babbel is leading a forlorn hope from the 7th Austrian Jager Battalion to spearhead the assault on the bridge over the Wethau stream, a strategic post guarded only by a squad of French voltigeurs. Some French can be seen there and here patrolling the area, two men in the southern bank and other in the northern one guarding the bridge, while other two are on sentry duty around a small house where the rest of the squad seems to sleep unaware of the danger.

The Austrian officer has divided his assault party in three groups. Unterjager Gassinger is leading three men in the edge of the left flank woods (one jaeger is a rifle-armed marksman while the other two caary, respectively, rifle and musket). A pair of jaegers has been sent to the right flank woods, while the Austrian main body is following the road under the Hauptmann’s direct command.

The Austrian rifle party opens fire on one of the French sentries forcing him to retreat towards the bridge without any appreciable damage, so Unterjager Gassinger runs to finish the work. At the sound of shooting, the center and right flank jaegers run also towards the bridge, while the Hauptmann Babbel chooses to remain prudently behind his men “to better observe the situation”

The Unterjaeger attacks the French Voltigeur 1 with his sword, but this parries the Austrian's thrust with the bayonet causing him to fall to ground grievously wounded. Jaeger 2 runs to avenge the death of the NCO but an accurate shot of Jaeger 3 kills the French. Meanwhile, the Jaegers 6 and 7 are converging towards the other French sentry (Voltigeur 2).
But the French, warned by the fighting noise, retreats at run crossing the stream, while his comrades in the north bank fire, resulting in Voltigeur 3 instantly killing Jaeger 2 with a well aimed shot. Meanwhile Jaeger 5 and Voltigeur 4 engage in a sort of musket duel over the stream that finally results in the death of the French. Sergeant Bauduin remains mesmerized, unable to sound the alarm, while the main body of the Austrian party is running towards the bridge.
At last, Sergeant Bauduin opens the fence’s door exiting out to evaluate the situation, while Voltigeurs 2 and 3 are falling back towards the house. However Voltigeur 2 is killed by an aimed shhot ofJaeger 6, whereas Voltigeur 3 has been caught up and must to face the combined attack of Jaegers 4 and 7.

The fight is going bad for the French! (To be continued...)

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