2023 My Napoleonic Year

Before Christmas I posted up a test piece Austrian infantry man for a new project I planned for 2023. I’ve had a desire to do something Horse and Musket for a while I wanted horse, foot and guns to push around the table and some pageantry and fancy uniforms . I toyed with the Seven years war, the war of Spanish succession even ACW but in the end Napoleonics seemed to trump the others either because it was more colourful (than ACW) or much easier to source the miniatures and cheaper due to the availability of plastic sets (than WSS or SYW).

Once I’d decided to go for Napoleonics I then needed to decide what theatre and year. My first thought was the Peninsular war mostly thanks to Messrs Sharpe and Harper however I’ve had a long standing love of Austrian uniforms ever since I had a set of ESCI 1805 Austrians and Prussian as a kid. So when I saw the Perry and Victrix plastic Austrian sets I was sold. I wanted my Austrians in helmets (which are way cooler than Shakos imo) so that meant 1805 or 1809. Frankly the Austrians were crap in 1805 while 1809 they gave the French and their German allies a much harder fight. Having settled on 1809 I was trying to workout what division from each side, from the frankly huge armies fighting in the main theatre, to represent when I jogged a memory of the Battle of Gefrees.

Gefrees was a very small battle by Napoleonic standards and was the main battle in a side show that happened in Bohemian, Saxony and the Bavarian Bayreuth region. As a side show the forces were small and of a very mixed bag. The Austrian forces included only two regular infantry Battalion and a regiment of Grenz regular border troops the bulk of the Austrian forces being made up of Bohemian Landwehr battalions. The Austrian cavalry was cobbled together from reserve squadrons of various light cavalry regiments. On top of that Austrians were supported by some small Freikorps made up of German rulers and their followers who lost their lands after Napoleon created the Confederation of the Rhine the main one being the famous Black Brunswickers of the duke of Brunswick.

Against this ragtag Austrian force was arrayed the Kingdom of Saxony. Unfortunately for Saxony the vast Majority of their army had been sent to support Napoleon in Bavaria. Which meant the defence of Saxony fell on Johann von Thielmann with another scratch force including 2000 men combed out of depot battalions many of who were invalids although he did have a regiment of the Zastrow Cuirassiers. Along side Saxony was the newly formed kingdom of Westphalia under Napoleon’s younger Brother King Jerome on paper the army looked quite good but many of the men were quite raw and king Jerome had already had to weather two uprisings, one lead by one of his own trusted officers, in his kingdom so there were questions over the loyalty of these German soldiers to their French King. Jerome could also call upon some Dutch troops from the short lived Kingdom of Holland who had already help put down the uprising of the Prussian hussar officer Ferdinand Von Schill in Northern Germany in early 1809.

The French also had forces in Northern Bavaria in the form of the reserve corps made up of a division of 4th infantry battalions which were made up of raw recruits and the elite companies of the old French regimental depot battalions, some scratch artillery crewed by infantry and some horse artillery gunners and two provisional Dragoon regiments cobbled together from the 4th squadrons of various different Dragoon regiments (and allegedly so raw that hadn’t even been trained to charge mounted yet). the French were also supported by a small forces of Bavarian infantry and artillery drawn from local depot companies.

The more I looked into this campaign side show the more it appealed the lack of elite formations, the smaller sizes of the battles (or almost battles), the fact the Austrians did quite well and the variety of different units involved really spoke to me. Now I had sorted out my theatre of operations I need a rule set. I decided I want something simple and quite old school my children had brought me a copy One Hour Wargames by Neil Thomas for my Birthday a while back but I hadn’t done much with it. Revisiting the rules I decided they would fit my needs really well. The rules are very simple but the simplicity allows to me add a few house rules for flavour with bog everything down.

Now I have a plan nailed down to build several small forces in 28mm based on the forces in Bohemia in 1809 I will try to stick to units in the various orders of battle but I may have to play around with numbers especially in the case of Austrian cavalry reserve squadrons, various depot companies and German freikorps to turn them into useable units under my chosen rules. I may also bath tub some of the larger forces because, for example, I don’t want to paint 14 battalions of Austrian Landwehr or the whole Westphalian army. To kick off I finished the first battalion of Austrian Regulars to accompany my test piece from Christmas. This is the 3rd battalion of IR 10 who were part of the Austrian XI corps in Bohemia in 1809 hopefully the first of many.

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