Kreigsspiel Battle Report – Battle of Ravine-à-Couleuvres

Historically the Battle of Ravine-à-Couleuvres also known as the Battle of Snake Gully, was a major battle of the Haitian Revolution on 23 February 1802.

A French division under General Donatien de Rochambeau was advancing down a ravine (the Ravine-à-Couleuvres), towards Lacroix, Artibonite, where they attacked the army of Toussaint Louverture. Louverture’s forces consisted of 1,500 elite grenadiers, 1,000 grenadiers in different Demi-brigades, 400 dragoons. Louverture’s forces resisted the attack strongly, but had to retreat across the Petite-Rivière after suffering 800 deaths.

Prior to the battle on 22 February 1802, the French occupied the heights of Morne Barade and were attacked by rebel troops; the battle raged throughout the night and the French forces successfully resisted the attack. The following morning, the Haitian forces advanced out of the Ravine-à-Couleuvres as the French were travelling down it towards Lacroix, while Louverture rallied his cavalry. According to Bell, the losses of Louverture’s army were minor.

The Gameplan

This would be my first game in Kreigsspiel and as such I was learning the ropes from the other players when I was able to communicate with them during the battle. That said it was an awful lot of fun and made me think of Kreigsspiel as more of an RPG wargame rather than the table top precisely measured game you imagine it to be.

This game took place with six players on each side, an overall General and then five Generals of Brigades. I was placed on the French side and in command of the third Brigade.

Unfortunately there were no accurate maps of the area available and so the game was to be played on a similar landscape using the Fredericksburg map from the Amercian Civil War.

The Battlefield

Our mission was simple, we were to enter from the north and take and hold the river side city as quickly as possible, while the rebels were out to stop us.

Our General issued his orders to us, which involved the Cavalry Brigade scouting the main route down to the city and assessing where the rebel locations were while avoiding combat if possible. My brigade was to follow the route taken by the cavalry as quickly as possible to try and take and hold the southern most part of the city ensuring that we held those bridges. The remaining brigades were to move to the northern part of the city to secure the crossing points there.

My initial orders showing the target positions of where I wanted my battalions to be placed once they reached the city.
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07:45 On our route down our wagons get stuck in mud and I’m forced to lose time ordering our lead battalion to assist in freeing the wagons. At this point I wasn’t quite aware that orders had already not been understood, as my wagons were leading the column towards the enemy!
At 08:00 I assumed that the lead four battalions were well ahead of us this point after our delay freeing the wagons from the mud. So I sent orders to them via ADC advising them where to position themselves in the city until our arrival.
At 08:15 it became clear that all of my battalions were in fact towards the rear of the column.
At 8:30 contact is made with the enemy by the Cavalry screen in front of us.
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08:30 Some frantic ordering in response to the firefight ahead sees me attempting to move my battalions in front of my wagons finally and deploying skirmishers while our General rides on ahead bravely to see whats going on
Brigade makes contact with the enemy and moves to support our cavalry.
08:45 As we were no co-located with the Cavalry commander we were able to get his report on the situation straight from the horses mouth (pun intended). I order my remaining battalions that have not yet arrived to push into the fields on the right as the nearest bridge to he city was just a couple of fields away to our right. We had the intention to punch through the enemy and try and make it to those bridges.
09:00 The initial combats appear to be going in our favour although the cavalry on the right are already starting to suffer casualties and the arrival of enemy cannon does not help our situation. I order my remaining three battalions to move up on the right flank to try and relieve the wounded cavalry elements.
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09:15 My infantry start to gain the upper hand in the combat but the artillery is a worry.
I give orders for my troop movements with the intention to try and push my very slight advantage, I also send a message to the other Brigades to inform them of our plight.
09:30 The fighting intensifies, but my men start to run out of ammunition and are taking casualties at an alarming rate. I order my troops to retreat back along the road until we’re beyond the range of the enemy artillery.
10:00 My men begin to pull back
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10:15 and my men begin to recuperate and rearm, while are Cavalry push back into the fields on the right.
10:30 and our Cavalry route the rebel cavalry and pursue their Generals. Only to be halted by the dreaded artillery. Prompted by this I order my battalions to take the enemy guns as quickly as possible, hoping to remove them from play or possibly even capture them for our own use.

And with that the game was over. While myself and my fellow gamer who was in charge of the Cavalry had managed to smash aside the Haitians, capture their guns and even wounded their commanders (I think)in our little corner of the battlefield. It just wasn’t enough with the 1st and 2nd French Brigades getting badly mauled to the north there was no hope of our little force crossing the river and securing the town.

A victory for the Haitians but a costly victory.

Summary

This was a fantastic introduction to Krieggspiel and I thoroughly enjoyed myself throughout.

It wasn’t anything like I expected, and in the end felt more like a Role-playing game where you’re in charge of a specific General. I highly recommend anyone to take a look at this game and perhaps join the International Krieggspiel Society and dip your own toes in!

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