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Wagram Bridge Crossings Part I

Scenario 10H (Campaign Wagram)

10H. Two Days at Wagram – Historical (scenario description)

July 5-6, 1809(H) - Napoleon's Army has bridged the Danube in an effort to avenge the defeat of Aspern-Essling and end the 1809 campaign in one stroke. While several diversions kept the Austrians occupied further downstream the engineers threw several bridges across on the evening of the 4th of July. The only resistance they met was in the form of some Jagers who locked themselves in a castle until they ran out of ammunition. With the dawn of the 5th the Army of Germany was marching steadily across the bridges to form up to take Gross-Enzerdorf which was the key pivot point of Napoleon's planned advance across the Marchfeld. Now as the bands play you as Napoleon or Charles can relive this historic moment!

The initial French situation on Lobau Island

The above description spells out what needs to be done; the French player needs to cross the Danube River from Lobau Island. As a matter of fact, nearly all of your forces are on Lobau Island with the exception of IV Corps of the Army of Germany (the Muhlau Bridgehead) –however, those units are all fixed for a fair amount of time, and are outside the scope of this discussion. I have elected to go with a historical scenario as those deployments are going to be on readily found maps on the topic anyway, so I am not really giving away too much (or rather I hope that I’m not).

Note that some areas have more defences deployed opposite the crossing points than others, and this should be your primary consideration. Naturally, this can be accomplished in different successful combinations. The main thing is that not only does a crossing need to be made, but an organized crossing should be made, and like any solid Napoleonic grand tactical situation, all of the armies’ branches need to cross as quickly and as organized (read that to mean in good command control range), as possible to present an effective and powerful fighting force.

What exactly am I talking about here by ‘an effective and powerful fighting force’? Simply this, a Napoleonic army in this scale thrives upon a ‘rock, paper, scissors’ approach, and these functioned using the concept of combined arms (actually in one way or another this has existed for thousands of years, but never mind that right now)… In short, you need to not only get your infantry across, but you also need your cavalry, and your artillery – not to mention your supply wagons.

At the start of the historical scenarios (I have chosen 10H but any historical scenario featuring the bridge crossings work the same) the actual bridges that the French very limited can cross are, and only infantry units can cross – that plus even those bridges are usually pretty weak. At this point it is important to consider the rules on damaged bridges, and what strength level a bridge can be at before the various unit types can use them.

[From page 17 of the NB User Manual:]

Bridges

Normally movement into Water hexes is prohibited. However, depending on the scenario, Bridges may be present that allow Water hexes to be crossed. In order to move onto a Bridge, the unit must be in Column formation (Limbered for Artillery) and no more than one non-Leader unit may attempt to enter or leave the Bridge hex at one
time.

For a unit to cross a bridge that has been damaged, the bridge must have a minimum strength value. This minimum strength value depends on the type of unit trying to cross according to the following:

  • For leaders and infantry units, the bridge must have a minimum strength of 50.
  • For cavalry units, the bridge must have a minimum strength of 100.
  • For artillery and supply wagons, the bridge must have a minimum strength of 150.

Now what does this mean in practical terms? Simply put, it means that as the French player you have some repair work to do, and you need to prioritise where this will be. Your first step is to take stock of your bridge values, and you have a lot of choices. I won’t tell you which ones are which, since that is basically part of the process, and I am not going to do all of the work here ;).

My own personal preference is to ignore the bridges that are half gone anyway, and focus on those that are more immediately useable, although at this point it is probably important to consider where the Austrian forces are and what they can plausibly do. I am not sure if the French force release times are all automatic, or based upon a percentage probability (and am not going to look), that being the case just assume that the fixed units release on a probability, so that it might well be different every time.

Next Time: Considering the Austrian defences.