Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Campaign Post Operations Report #19 - Blucher's pursuit triggers the King of Prussia

Relentless in pursuit?!

Comes the title of a missive from the player representing the King of Prussia:

Hasn't Blucher received my orders to do nothing of the kind? Stories of an Austrian 'victory' at Bautzen are grossly overinflated, not to say misleading, and what we are seeking is a truce, at least, with the French, and certainly not for our trusty General Blucher to risk our army in an engagement with Oudinot or anyone else. If dear Francis can demonstrate that he has won a decisive action, and that the French are in full retreat across the Rhine, or if wonderful Alexander can prove the same, well then, that is a different matter, but the excuse that communications have been severed cannot now hold, surely, we are perfectly capable of issuing instructions to Blucher not to provoke an encounter.

More interesting is the reply from the Emperor, what does he say? 


Haugwitz was quick to chime in:

Somehow, Euerer Majestaet, I seem to have all the substance of the latest despatch snipped off, and only your own remarks to go by.
It does however sound as if Stein and his circle have been at work, trying to confuse your Majesty's policy with that of wild Muscovite Alexander and the August Habsburger again and sending out conflicting instructions, perhaps under the seal of Royal Headquarters itself, which in time of war is surely a capital offence, if those responsible can be discovered. Poor hapless Bluecher-we know how politically inept he is-has fallen in their snares and may have to be replaced, if he cannot follow true direction.
And what news from the French side-that you are so right to ask about!


To which came the reply from the Prussian monarch (partly in player mode):

Once again we have been thinking along exactly the same lines - if Blucher cannot follow instructions properly, he will have to be replaced. Does anyone have any suggestions for a suitable (timid, inept, bungling) replacement for him? Scharnhorst is of course still around but surely the natural choice would be Gneisanhau, who will set about building fortifications in the middle of nowhere as was his wont. Or Yorck? Or Kleist? Any of these would prove more incompetent than Blucher, I have little doubt.....All provided of course it's fair and reasonable to see Frederick dithering, in the absence of a substantial Allied victory, which Tim and I certainly do think is right, and of course also that old Vorwarts can be prevented from forcing a major action, which I suppose depends on communications and a lot of other factors.

The more I consider this scenario though, the more amazingly interesting it seems. The possibility of a Franco-Prussian rapprochement (which surely the Emperor would be mad not to accept) eventually maturing into a fully-blown alliance by 1815, seeing battles between Franco-Prussian forces and Austrian-Russian ones, with Britain caught awkwardly in the middle this time - James' point about the forces of progress - and numerous German states scrabbling to take sites - Bavaria, for instance, where would she stand now? Napoleon could well end up being on the throne until he dies (which of course James believes would not have been until 1850 at the earliest as he was poisoned by a distant ancestor), and we have a whole series of extremely interesting counterfactual battles. 

I have a feeling though David you're not keen on the idea of the scenario developing in this way....!!


Actually as Game Meister I was rather enjoying the crazy political banter and the wild ideas posted by these Prussian player schemers ...


then came a reply from the Haugwitz player:

I think the question with Bluecher was who was advising him-historically he is said to have appreciated his inadequacies in staff and administrative work and to have left the planning and strategy precisely for that reason to Scharnhorst and the other capable men, so if we could get rid of the men who were there historically and replace them with someone more suitable (as you so rightly observe, Euerer Majestaet, someone umsichtiger, if not zaghafter) then the old man himself would probably either fall in line, not quite knowing what else to do, or fall out with them big time, and get sacked that way. It is a pity in that case that Grawert, a thoroughly plausible commander for the main Prussian Army, if not chief of staff for alte Vorwaerts, is on his vital mission to the French general headquarters, but if this is not working out he'd be our man.
And indeed, it is not long since Napoleon bestrode the puny world like a colossus, who would have guessed even after Russia that his whole project had but two years more to run? Why are we not talking to him?
Not on account of the August Habsburger's glad tidings, the preposterous Scharmuetzel an der Spree, surely!


In fact this was the GM's reply:

Stop it?

 Heck no this is entertaining.

We are witnessing a 'possibility' in the time.

> France goes north - was a Bonaparte plan.

> Austria makes common cause with Blucher & Silesia corridor of attack.

> Prussia starts getting cold feet.

> Schwartzenberg becomes bogged down in military matters, neglecting
keeping a close enough eye on the Monarchs, who then start mucking
everything up!

What a debrief this will have! 


 Then came back a reply from the Prussian monarch player, with an interesting twist on the situation:

I'm very glad you agree. Initially I wasn't very excited about the campaign, as it seemed 'on tram lines' but once one introduces the possibility that the Prussians might get cold feet - and that Blucher might find himself out of a job - the whole scenario seems mighty interesting indeed, whether with the Prussians neutral (as after all they have been before) or even as French allies (which would make for the most fascinating wargames).

 Back in London I wonder whether Castlereagh's spies  - we will remember he had 'the best spy network in Europe' - will be informing him of the Prussian cold feet at the Imperial level. I'm not sure at this point that the British can do much about it, though, does anyone have any thoughts?


There I shall end this point in the action, we are just now after the Austrian Triumph at Bautzen and the Prussians are getting cold feet, considering negotiating with Bonaparte and have troubles with their top soldier being relentless.

The final question posed here is a good one, what information could the British have at this point?  What would the do?  What could they do about a rapprochement in progress between Prussia and France?

Any readers have thoughts to share?

Please do enter your comments on this development.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Campaign Post Operations Report #18 - Yet More Prussian intrigue

King Fredrick William III
Our Prussian ADC player had this to say on Oct 19, 2013:
Metternich on the King of Prussia at this time:
The King of Prussia, calm in the midst of a highly excited people, and by nature little inclined to believe in easily gained victories, even where his army thought them certain, was a severe critic of all plans (without himself bringing forward any) for the intended operations...
Seems pretty close to the way FW is being played, I think.
He displays the Russian army as such as being quite reluctant to press the war into Germany west of the Oder, the reconquest of Poland being quite enough for them; and suggests that if Kutusov had been alive still he would have prevented it, Alexander being the mainspring of the move when it came, and part of his boldness owing to the realisation that he needed to wrap things up quickly or lose the faith of his troops. One must wonder what effect the current inane countermarching and gentle skirmishing must be having on the patience of his generals and their men, as they contemplate winter quarters in battered Germany or the return march into Russia.
The Prussian army I suspect Metternich has trouble characterising-at the start of the campaign describing it as a nullity, later on he describes it as composed largely of fanatic volunteers, whose only thought is revenge, a war of extermination, as was the feeling of much of the educated people of the kingdom-which is to say, not a good thing from Metternich's point of view at all. There seems little doubt that both Unser Fritz and Metternich himself were thoroughly conscious of the national genie which they were allowing to escape from the bottle, and full of forebodings about what this would later cost them and Germany.
Francis he describes politely as a model of wise statesmanship, ripened by nature in the school of experience, and so on and so forth, as you might expect. There is no reference to the dynastic connection to Napoleon which he had established not long before, and which must be giving both Alexander and our Freddie some cause to wonder just which side the man will come down on in the end. Who was it who described him as a skeleton whom the worth of his ancestors had placed on the throne?
Is Moreau still considered to be alive, and directing the Tsar's military strategy? With Jomini? And is Duroc still considered to be alive and advising the grand bete?


To which the player performing as King Fredrick William III said:

Yes, it seems to me that without the influence of my dear wife, I will be reliant on news of victories to stay within the Coalition, and despite the absolutely masterful spin emerging from Bautzen, it is clear enough that my Imperial colleagues have in fact totally failed to destroy the French Army there, whilst nothing has been achieved either in the siege of Berlin. I really do see little point in committing Blucher to further marching up and down, with no clear objective, whilst I am looking to a reply from the many days now since the message was sent, meinen Herren?


More from Haugwitz:

Euerer Majestaet displays his invariable wisdom, if he will allow his humble courtier to venture an opinion...has a single man, pray, in the Habsburg army, yet moved a step closer to the rescue of imperilled Berolina? May we have an accounting of the number of guns taken from the enemy at Bautzen, the customary measure of victory in these cases, I am told? There has been time to count the guns, surely, by now, has there not?
What, not one?