I had given some thought to issuing another
rant thoughtful analytical post about politics and the way things allegedly "work" in the world these days. But I decided I'd rather write about something I enjoy. Don't get me wrong, I like ranting, just not all the time.
Honestly I will, from time to time, write posts which seem to drive the numbers up. While I don't get paid to do this, I do like the boost to my ego. Which is considerable, truth be told. So from time to time I'll post stuff that a lot of people ("lot" being an uncertain quantity which I define as more than a few, but less than a crap ton) like to read, sometimes you get whatever tickles my fancy at any given time. Sometimes I post for the family archives. Someday I hope that my grandchildren will read this blog, look quietly at each other and say, "Yup, Grandpa was a right old loon, wasn't he?"
Anyhoo, today's post is in the second category, my fancy having been tickled over the weekend. (Minds out of the gutter now...)
A favorite computer game of mine is Scourge of War: Waterloo, that screen shot above is from that very game. This is not the first time I've posted on this game and certainly not the first time I've posted on the topic of Waterloo. (Fair warning, it won't be the last!)
The reason I bring this subject up today (other than the whole tickling of the fancy...) is that I recently received (thanks to Father's Day) an update to Scourge of War: Waterloo with the addition of the battle of Quatre Bras to the game. (The makers of the game, whom you can visit here, also got me all wound up by indicating that the battles of Ligny and Wavre were "coming soon." For those not aware, Ligny, Quatre Bras, Wavre, and Waterloo were the four main battles of the Waterloo campaign in 1815. Napoléon's last cast of the dice to regain his throne.)
Now the battle of Waterloo is kind of a sprawling battle, lots of troops, lots to keep track of, and, as I've noticed, things in computer simulations seldom follow history. I have a game of Waterloo in progress but as I don't have the time commitment to sit down and fight the entire battle at the moment, I needed something a bit more manageable. Quatre Bras fits the bill perfectly. The battle started around 2 in the afternoon and lasted perhaps six hours. Hey, I can do that. (Seriously honey, I will fix that light soon, just not right now, can't you see that the French are advancing on my position? No, I'm not an idiot, I'm an historical enthusiast!)
With that being said...*
The battle begins, I have decided to take command of the Anglo-Allied forces so I must needs be find out where His Grace the Duke of Wellington is placed. Fortunately the game provides a convenient way to jump to a general's or combat unit's position, so I do so. His Grace is galloping down a road in the middle of freaking nowhere. Going to the map I see that, no, it's not the middle of nowhere, he is on the Nivelles road coming back from having met Field Marshal Blücher in the vicinity of Ligny that morning.
I have to say that I was tickled pink (not literally mind you) at the accuracy of this simulation. For that event happened just as it is depicted in the game. Well, okay, the Duke had a single guy with him in the game, in reality he had a number of staff and a cavalry escort with him in real life. But all that takes precious computing cycles so one must needs be use one's imagination.
While surveying the quaint Belgian countryside I have the thought that perhaps I should find my troops (primarily Belgians and Dutchmen at that point in time) and see what they are up to. For I know that le Marechal Ney and the French II Corps under Reille are no doubt heading in my direction.
I reach the position of one of my units forward of the farm of Gemioncourt and sure enough, in the distance I can see the French. A cavalry advance guard is all I can see now, but I know that just behind them are infantry and artillery. Troops I must delay until the rest of Wellington's army can march up from Brussels and the surrounding countryside. Just like it was in 1815.
It is now that I am struck by something the Emperor once said. Something along the lines of making your dispositions and then waiting to see what happens. I've also heard this referred to as letting the battle "ripen."
Things moved slowly in 1815, no faster than a galloping horse. For the most part even horses walked to battle, they would only pick up speed (and gradually at that) when attacking. As these French were simply coming forward "to see what they could see" (from an old French folk song, Marlbrough s'en va-t-en guerre, or Marlborough Has Left for the War), all I could do for the nonce was to make minor adjustments to my positions and see what the French had in mind. (And for heaven's sake don't muck it up!)
I had two batteries of artillery near my center (on the road to Brussels), unlimbered and ready to open the ball when the French came into range. Which they did, eventually.
The opening of a Napoleonic battle requires a great deal of patience on the defender's part. You feel like you should be doing something, anything (much like a progressive after a tragedy) when the best move is to sit tight and wait. Things will happen soon enough and marching one's troops hither and yon, to and fro, around the countryside just wears them out. Even the best of units will take to their heels if they are tired and get pressed by the enemy too hard. (Don't ask me how I know. I just know.)
So I waited. And waited.
I was tempted to bring a battalion in from the far right flank as it seemed that nothing was happening there. 'Twas then that I heard the thump of my cannon towards the center. Ah, the music has started and "Oh dear! I think Johnnie Frenchman has cavalry to your front. You lads wait here, I'll be back."
Back to the center and I find two brigades of French infantry in line and advancing, slowly, on my position. No cannon though, not yet. My guns are already taking a toll of the French as I can see bodies strewn behind the advancing lines. And just there, a number of dead horses and riders who "discovered" a battery hidden behind a fold in the ground.
Things are ripening nicely. But all those infantry are making me a tad anxious. All I have in the immediate vicinity is at most a brigade of Dutch-Belgian infantry, plus two batteries of cannon. Coming at me is an entire French corps. This could get exciting in a hurry.
But that's a nineteenth century hurry.
Patience, it's never been a strong suit of mine. Perhaps this game will teach me that?
Nah. No doubt I will step falsely and soon.
But hey, it's just a game. I doubt that I would have the nerve for the real thing.
"Damn me, but are those cuirassiers I see?"
|The 2/69 (South Lincolnshires) at Quatre Bras. (Source)|
"Damn it, so they are!"
Sorry, must run! "Quickly, De Lancey, let us gallop for that square!"
Seriously, if you enjoy this sort of thing, buy the game. They also do Gettysburg in the same vein. Very immersive, very cool. (I note that a few folks got a sneak peek at this post Monday night. I just had to push the wrong button, didn't I? Save and publish are too close together. No patience I tell you, none at all. Apparently I can't read either.)