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Topic of the Month: The Battle of Richland, a Tactical Analysis
[Battlefield correspondent: Jacques Montpellier. Ed.]
Zuyevo: 9,800 troops. Commander: Prince Yuri Brusilov.
The 3rd and 9th Imperial Shock Troop Battalions (1,500).
The 7th Imperial Fleet (1,800).
The 1st Imperial Hussars (2,500).
The 11th Imperial Zuyevan Infantry Division (4,000).
Richland: 3,400 troops. Commander: Sheriff EJ Wilson.
Richland City Guard (500).
Richland Militia (1,500).
Cimarron Colonial Marines (500).
Iron Claw Defenders [an elite mercenary unit. Ed.] (300).
Texeiran Privateers (600).
In the last 20 years or so, Richland has grown from a small Cimarron trading colony to a large city of 12,000 people, administering a dominion of 38,000 souls. The catalyst for this extraordinary growth has been the opening of new trade routes from Richland to the Empire of Zuyevo, which had finally managed to establish itself on the Yalu Bay in AC 998 with the founding of the port of Kishinev. Most of the trade is conducted by the LB Trading Company of Cimarron and its Texeiran allies who protect the shipments of trade goods (mainly furs and gold) to the Savage Coast. Given the Texeiran presence at Porto Maldição and Porto Escorpião, they have been able to choke Yalu Bay in their iron grip denying passage to all other trade vessels in an attempt to corner the trading routes with the Empire of Zuyevo and also the Yezchamenid Empire. This is where the interests of the Royaume de Renardie intervene. For it is we who established the first trade contacts with the mighty Zuyevan Empire. I, Jacques Montpellier, military attaché to Renardie's diplomatic mission in Kishinev have been instrumental in convincing the Zuyevans that Renardie would be a far better carrier of their trade. Unlike the greedy Texeirans we would only levy a moderate sum to export Zuyevo's produce to the wider world. The first step in restoring Renardois dominance of the Yalu Bay trade routes would be to expunge the Cimarron and Texeiran presence from Richland and then hopefully from the two Texeiran ports that have a chokehold on the bay.
Timeline [from the Diary of Monsieur Montpellier, military attaché to the Renardois diplomatic mission at Kishinev, Kishinev Oblast, Empire of Zuyevo. Ed.]
Felmont 1, AC 1016: Over winter, the Zuyevan authorities have been putting together an expeditionary force with which to conquer the LB Trading Company port of Richland. Today the Zuyevan expeditionary force sets off for Richland from the town of Zablin in the occupied province of Drazde. The land force comprises 4,000 infantry and 2,500 cavalry with a large supply train, and is closely shadowed by the 3,300 strong naval forces on its journey. The expedition is led by Prince Brusilov, renowned as one of the better tacticians in the Zuyevan military and a veteran commander of the Bylot Hills actions against Hule of AC 1012-1013. No military resistance from Richland is expected for at least two weeks, although we suspect that the Texeirans may at least know of our movements-a Texeiran spy-ring was rooted out in Kishinev last month, but I suspect that a few spies may still be active.
Felmont 18, AC 1016: The expeditionary force has been making good time along the seaboard known as the Grass Coast for more than two weeks now. This morning, the Zuyevan vanguard came across the first outlying settlement that is claimed by Richland. A small hamlet of no more than a handful of farms, the Zuyevans surrounded the area as if it might hold an enemy army. Within minutes they had set fire to all the buildings they could find looting what they could before the farms were completely razed. I found this undisciplined activity quite disturbing, and it appeared to me that the Zuyevan officers were even condoning the wanton destruction. Prince Brusilov's aide de camp, Viscount Machetov, explained that the troops were merely a little overzealous and that he would convey my concerns to the prince and would ensure that such activity did not occur again.
Felmont 19, AC 1016: Our naval escort left us at dawn to make an end run around Green Cape and blockade Richland before the army arrives there in two days or so. For the remainder of the day the Zuyevan army continued along the coast toward Richland. The rough grasslands were quickly giving way to rolling pasture land. I noted that the troops seemed a bit more restrained today and no farms were ransacked.
Felmont 20, AC 1016: In the early morning the expeditionary force arrived near the village of Wainford which is located on the western bank of the Great Northway River. The Richland garrison at Wainford we knew would be jealously guarding the ford over the river that broached the western bank only 3 miles north of Richland. In fact we could see that town in the distance from our position perched on a low ridge outside of Wainford. From our vantage point we could see frenzied activity in Wainford, as Richland troops scurried about hastily putting together last minute defences-clearly they had not had as much warning of our approach as I had previously thought they might.
Prince Brusilov ordered elements of the 1st Imperial Hussars to test the defences of the village. Soon the elite Zuyevan cavalry, about 300 of them in all, charged down from our position to the outskirts of Wainford. They penetrated deep into the village before skirmishing with some Richland city guards and some rural militia. However, it was soon apparent that the tide of battle was turning against the hussars, and they began to flee headlong from the village. At first I was shocked, surely the elite mounted troops of Zuyevo could take on a bunch of farmers and lazy colonial troops. But then I realised the full brilliance of Prince Brusilov's strategy. As the hussars fled the skirmish, the undisciplined Richland militia pursued them away from the safety of the village. Seven hundred hussars sprang from their hiding places behind the ridge outflanking and then enveloping the militia. The slaughter was mercifully short. That night I was in Prince Brusilov's new headquarters in Wainford when the final casualty lists were brought in from the day's fighting. Twenty-three hussars were dead along with a further 46 wounded, while the bodies of almost 300 militia and 75 Richland city guards were counted. The remainder of the Richland troops had fled the village and had regrouped on the other side of the ford with reinforcements from Richland. There was going to be a mighty battle tomorrow.
Felmont 21, AC1016: Battle of Richland Harbour. This morning I awoke expecting Brusilov to be preparing to attack the ford where more than 1,800 Richland troops had drawn up. Instead Machetov explained that the Zuyevan commander was awaiting developments at sea first. Zuyevan forward scouts had reported the approach of 12 Texeiran warships toward Richland where the 7th Fleet and 3rd and 9th Shock Troops had set up a blockade of Richland harbour. Sure enough, I could soon spot the masts of the Texeiran ships on the horizon. I rode with Machetov and a small cavalry detachment to the mouth of the Great Northway River, a little more than 2 miles south of Wainford from where we could better view the unfolding battle. The Zuyevan 7th Fleet was a much larger formation of ships however, including 10 galleys, 24 sailed warships, and the mighty flagship of Admiral Nikolaev which was called the Noit Angelsk-I think it loosely translates as the Dark Angel. The 7th Fleet adopted a standard battle pattern with the galleys moving up to ramming speed in the middle, and the warships turning broadside to unleash a hail of ballista bolts and catapult stones.
The Texeiran warships predictably turned broadside themselves which seemed surprisingly stupid as it would make them perfect targets for the charging galleys. However, soon huge puffs of smoke could be seen rising from the broadsides of the Texeiran warships. This was soon followed by a rumble-like thunder that rolled across the waters to our position. To our surprise, the bow of the lead Zuyevan galley exploded in a cloud of splinters, and the ship skewed sideways, broke up and sunk. The same fate befell three of the other galleys. It appeared from our distant position that the Texeiran ships were firing some kind of solid round projectiles on flat trajectories straight into the Zuyevan ships. As each projectile fired a large puff of smoke appeared from the location of the shot. We were mystified as to what this weapon could be-the only thing I could think that it looked like was a wheellock pistol firing, but on a much larger scale... surely not!
As it appeared that all was lost for the Zuyevan fleet, with five ships sunk, three listing badly and at least four others on fire, one of the Texeiran ships exploded in the most magnificent fashion-as if the whole ship was full of smoke powder to which someone had carelessly applied a lighted match. At this, the other Texeiran ships seemed to take fright, and they quickly let out their sails to flee the battle. Admiral Nikolaev saw his opportunity and ordered the remaining galleys to ram the fleeing ships. Two were sunk in this fashion, before they could get fully under sail. The Dark Angel itself tangled with one of the fleeing ships, even from our vantage point we could see Zuyevan marines leaping onto the deck of the Texeiran ship. After ten minutes of fierce fighting on the deck of the ship, the Zuyevan naval flag was hoisted from the Texeiran warship's stern-indicating that she had been captured. Now we would find out what this secret Texeiran weapon was all about!
The eight remaining Texeiran ships soon fled southeast from Richland as the 7th Fleet limped back to its position at the blockade. Word came from Admiral Nikolaev that he was sending some ships on a long-range patrol to make sure that he had plenty forewarning of any future Texeiran attack. However, I suspected that the Texeirans had conceded Richland, confident they could still control naval access to the Yalu Bay from their colonies on the Yalu Strait. In the meantime Admiral Nikolaev requested that Prince Brusilov please hurry up and take Richland, so that he could park his damaged vessels in dry-dock.
Even though it was late afternoon, Brusilov, realising that a number of Zuyevan ships would be lost from the damage sustained in the battle if they remained at sea, ordered a full frontal assault by the 11th Division on the ford. In typical Zuyevan fashion, Brusilov was clearly happy to sacrifice his infantry in a bloody assault of the highly defensible Richlandian position. The unfortunate nature of this decision soon became apparent as the superiority that the 11th had in numbers was eliminated by channelling the troops over the narrow ford. Wave after wave of infantry rushed across the ford, leaping out of the knee-deep water only to be impaled on the pikes and swords of the Richland troops. Even though the light was fading, it was apparent that the river was turning red from the blood of all the soldiers cut down on the ford. Eventually as night fell, Brusilov conceded defeat and withdrew the shattered remnants of the 11th Division from the bloodbath. Casualties were high, but the true number would not be known until the morning.
Felmont 22, AC 1016: Impasse. Clerics of the Zuyevan Orthodox Church did their best for the wounded and dying that were recovered from yesterday's morass. Machetov estimated the Zuyevan losses at 1,400 killed or drowned, and perhaps 350 wounded. It was difficult to tell how many of the Richland forces had been cut down, but from our position in Wainford it was evident that they have suffered heavily as well. The rest of the day was spent tending to the injured. In Richland harbour, two of the badly damaged warships of the Zuyevan squadron gave up their fight to stay afloat and sank.
Felmont 23, AC 1016: The Battle of Richland. Today at dawn, from our observation posts, word came that the Richlanders had strengthened their positions at the ford-digging in to defensive positions on the eastern bank of the Great Northway River and supported by reinforcements sent from Richland. In all, Zuyevan spotters estimated that there were perhaps 1,200 Richland troops entrenched on the other side of the ford. Now, Brusilov put Plan B into effect. The artillery on the decks of the ships of the 7th Fleet began bombarding Richland to keep the defenders' heads down, so that by the time they realised what the Zuyevans were doing it would be far too late. The two battalions of shock troops that had been waiting offshore in their galleys surged forward landing just north of Richland, in between the town and the ford. Leaving their galleys protected by a small cadre of troops, they launched themselves at the unprepared rear of the Richlandian defences at the ford. As the Richlanders turned to face this new menace the 1st Imperial Hussars charged across the ford catching the Richlanders in a pincer movement. The ensuing battle was fierce as the Richlanders tried to defend themselves from this onslaught, but they were never going to win. While the Richlanders fought valiantly, and the Iron Claw Defenders in particular, within an hour they had surrendered. Over 700 troops were captured. The way to Richland was now open wide.
Felmont 28, AC1016: The town of Richland is a reasonably defensible fortress, ringed as it is by six foot thick stone walls that rise to a height of thirty feet. However, from the sea it is not well defended-on the insistence of the Texeirans who wanted to make sure that the Richlanders didn't get any ideas about trying to usurp Texeiran dominance of the region. Another problem for Richland is that it does not have anywhere near an adequate water supply within the walls of the city to sustain the garrison and the population. This is more a consequence of the quick growth of the city than anything else-but now it was clearly a significant problem given that the city had been surrounded on all sides for five days.
Seeing that the Texeirans had abandoned the Richland garrison, Sheriff EJ Wilson, the Cimarron commander of Richland decided to parley with the Zuyevans. His envoy arrived in our camp this morning and negotiated with Brusilov for more than an hour before terms were finally agreed to. The Cimmarons would surrender the city to Zuyevo in return for free passage for the sheriff and his staff on a ship. So, in the early afternoon, the Zuyevan forces entered the town triumphantly and the Cimarron governors left on a merchant ship tied up in the harbour.
While Zuyevan losses were relatively heavy that did not seem to bother Prince Brusilov. As Machetov explained to me the losses were mainly amongst the sailors of the fleet and the infantry-and they were mainly made up of serf-soldiers and there were plenty more where they came from. This best sums up the Zuyevan military machine I think. The country is large, the population is large, the army is large... and its officers (mostly of the nation's nobility) are happy to sacrifice troops for territorial gains. This is the Empire of Zuyevo's first foray this far south, but I think that they might pose a significant threat to the Savage Coast in coming years. Although, this new weapon of the Texeirans was mystifying-even now it was being examined by the Zuyevan armourers. Perhaps this weapon will help to tip the balance of the military equation in Texeiras' favour. Either way, I can see the Yalu Bay region descending into bloody conflict in the near future.