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Refight of Salmi, 8th of September 2008

Scenario details for General de Brigade rules are here.

After the battle of Ruona (1st of September) Finns retreated some 5 kilometres west from Ruona and take positions at village of Salmi which lies next to a field. The field is surrounded by a dense and partly marshy forest.

Early in the morning September 2nd Adlercreutz got a report that the Russians were retreating and they had burnt the Ruona farms. He saw the folly of his previous retreat and immediately decided to retake the positions at Ruona and orders some troops to hasten there.

Unfortunately these soon ran into Kulnev’s Russians that were moving towards Salmi.

Setup for the game.

Overview of the battle area. Artillery and 1st brigade occupying Salmi village at lower right while the other brigades (3rd, 4th & 6th) occupy Jylhä inn with some artillery to the left of it.

Turn 1. After hearing that Russians have also abandoned Ruona, Adlercreuz dispatches some of his troops to reclaim the positions there.

Turn 2. Moving towards Ruona. Most of the 3rd brigade is on the field in front on Jylhä inn.

Turn 3. Still advancing. The first battalion of Colonel Kulnev’s vanguard can just be seen in the crossroads in the woods.

Lieutenant-Colonel Reuterskiöld leading the two battalions of Turku Province regiment on either side of the artillery positions.

The 1st (Life-) battalion of Häme regiment (from 3rd brigade) is on the right, while behind Jylhä inn the yellow flags mark the positions of 4th (Savo-) brigade’s troops. Further behind in the woods can the blue flag of 6th (Swedish-) brigade just be seen.

Turn 4. In 3rd brigade small Uusimaa jaeger battalion deploys in skirmish order.

Turn 5. 1st brigade manages to catch a glimpse of scouting Russian Cossacks detachment on the forested road.

Turn 6. The whole 1st brigade as well as Häme jaeger battalion from 3rd brigade deploys half of their forces in skirmish order while the Russian road columns march onwards.

Turn 7. The battle ensues as Häme jaegers and the Russian 3rd jaegers start exchanging skirmish fire.

Turn 8. Uusimaa jaegers hurry across the field to support Häme jaegers. Russians also bring in more 3rd jaegers to counter these. During the firefight Häme jaegers roll triple sixes against the Russians, drawing blood in earnest!

Turn 9. As Russian resistance is stiff, the Finns strengthen their skirmish line by committing the remainder of the skirmishing units to the skirmish line. Despite the heavy fighting no casualties are suffered by either side.

Turn 10. The whole forest seems to be full of skirmishers.

Turn 11. A massive skirmish battle now commences and it is a bloody affair! The Petrov grenadiers score triple sixes while their opponents, the Turku Province regiment, score double sixes. Luckily forest reduces casualties suffered in skirmish fire.

CiC Major-General count Adlercreutz has also decided to investigate the progress of the battle and is advancing towards the fray while the 4th (Savo-) brigade follows him. The 6th (Swedish-) brigade has taken up positions between Jylhä inn and Salmi village.

Turn 12. Russians take initiative and both battalions of 3rd jaegers charge targeting the Uusimaa and Häme jaegers…

…and manage to win both melees driving the Finns to the open field.

Turn 13. Uusimaa infantry regiment’s 2nd battalion starts skirmishing. The Russians commit their remaining formed units into skirmish line.

With the small Russian vanguard forces already tied to fighting the Finnish skirmishers there doesn’t seem to be enough forces to break through to engage the Finnish units further down the field.

Turn 14. While the Uusimaa jaegers disperse, the 2nd Uusimaa battalion valiantly charges 3rd jaegers. Even an impressive salvo (yet another triple sixes!) doesn’t stop the furious Finns who proceed in seriously kicking Russian jaeger butt and thus force the 3rd jaegers to retreat (melee results: 11 vs 4).

Turn 15. On Finnish right flank the Petrov grenadiers and Perm musketeers charge the 2nd battalion of Turku Province infantry routing it (melee results 13 vs 2). Häme jaegers start skirmishing.

Turn 16. Finns mount their own charge with 2nd battalion of Häme and 3rd battalion of Turku Province infantry. The original target (3rd jaegers) decides to retreat instead of facing the Finnish horde. Seeing the flank of the Petrov grenadiers open the Turku battalion now decide to continue the charge against the grenadiers but the rather than receive the attack to their flank the grenadiers rout away.

2nd Turku Province battalion disperses causing the 1st brigade (ie remaining Turku province battalion) to break. The Russians fare little better as the Petrov grenadiers likewise disperse while the retreat of the mauled 3rd jaeger battalion turns into a rout. Luckily for Russians, their reinforcements start to arrive to the battlefield under Lieutenant-Colonel Ljukov.

Turn 17. Remaining 3rd jaegers charge 2nd Häme battalion which counterattacks. The Russians are really taken aback by this and instead of charging go into rout.

Both battalions of 3rd jaegers disperse causing the Kulnev’s vanguard brigade to retreat and depriving the Russians necessary forces to continue with the attack.

Russian vanguard is driven aback and thus the Russian decide not to carry on the attack with the forces still remaining.

Historical tidbits

Historically Häme jaegers (ie. 3rd battalion of Häme regiment) was assigned to read guard duty with two guns and 1st brigade was ordered to return to Ruona. Meanwhile Russians had apparently hastily built a makeshift bridge over the Ruonanoja stream (mind you, the original, which Finns burnt on August 31st, was half a kilometre long) and immediately at daybreak Kulnev headed off towards Salmi with his detachment which also included a handful of cavalry for scouting purposes.

Kulnev’s forces apparently met the Finnish rear guard some kilometres from Ruona. As the distance between Ruona and Salmi is some 5 kilometres so they must’ve been roughly in the midway. We’re guessing that the crossroads of Lintulahti road and road to Ruona would’ve been a good choice for rearpost duty.

Upon meeting Finns Kulnev kept the musketeers in reserve and had the 3rd jaeger regiment immediately engage the Finns and started off by threatening their left flank. Lieutenant-colonel Adlercreutz made a slow fighting withdrawal with his Häme jaegers in the face of advancing Russians especially since they started to threaten his both flanks. Having retreated to just a kilometre from the positions at Salmi four companies from Turku Province regiment arrived to his assistance and along them came the CIC major-general count Adlercreutz himself. CIC had also ordered two half battalions, ie.3rd Savo infantry and 2nd Karelian jaegers, to the fray. Kulnev asked Kamenski for more troops but Kamenski replied “Harass the enemy with what God has supplied you with.” Perhaps the troops that partook in the previous day’s battle were in such condition that they could not be sent to Kulnev’s help or that the makeshift bridge Russian had made (if such even existed in reality) could not be traversed easily.

The Finns however did receive even further reinforcements as apparently under his own initiative 3rd brigade’s commander major-general Gripenberg sent the Uusimaa’s 2nd and jaegar battalions to help. With this addition Finns began to push back the major Hudinski’s 3rd jaegers towards Lintulahti road. However, now lieutenant-colonel Ljukov arrived with Sievsk musketeer regiment and two guns from the Lintulahti road. Kulnev now deployed some of these and some of his own reserves. Two Sievsk companies were sent to right flank, Perm musketeers to the middle and Petrov grenadiers to left flank.

This vanguard action lasted several hours from 6 AM to 11 AM after which the Finns retreated to their positions. During the fighting major-general Adlercreutz and his aides were cut off from the rest of the Finns and caught amidst Russians who apparently tried to further hamper his retreat by overturning some ammo carriages on the road. The Finnish commander and his aides had no intention of being captured, drew their swords and hacked the way through the Russians with only captain Klingspor taken as a prisoner.

As Kamenski had instructed Kulnev to engage the Finns, drive them from Ruona and to put a vanguard some 2-3 kilometres further, Kulnev now took a couple hours to organized his forces for an attack. As Finns had clear artillery superiority Kulnev decided to threaten their left flank and had 6 companies of 3rd jaegers along with two companies from each Sievsk and Perm musketeers under major Hundinski march northwards though the forest to achieve this. The middle, under major Tilin consisted only of two companies of Perm musketeers accompanied by the two guns dragged through the forest. The artillery was to target Jylhä. Russian left flank consisted of two companies each from 3rd jaegers and Petrov grenadiers under major lieutenant-colonel Kusmin. Reserve under lieutenant-colonel Ljukov consisted of six companies of Sievsk musketeers. Around 2 PM Hundinski’s troops were in place and the attack commenced.

On right Russians just tried to tie 1st brigade with skirmish fire from the forest. Finns replied by pounding Kusmin’s troops with artillery fire. In the middle one push to take Jylhä inn was made but canister fire from the 6 pounders that had been driven there was enough to push the Russians back. After this the 2nd Savo infantry occupied Jylhä inn.

The attack against Finnish left flank was much more energetic. Hundisnki’s skirmishing hordes attacked over the open field against the positions of Uusimaa regiment and especially their left flank but these held their ground and even made a counterattack during which several strong columns burst out of the opposing side of the forest. As his right flank didn’t seem successful Kulnev decided to use his reserve, now strengthened with a battalion of Veliki-Loutsk musketeers. This attack commenced with all haste and force that could be mustered and was directed against Jylhä inn which was swiftly taken. The 2nd Savo infantry’s half battalion was driven back with casualties and only with great difficulty could the artillery withdraw in time.

Before major-general Adlercreutz could commit his reserve and retake Jylhä inn a courier arrived from the high command situated at Lapua some 27 kilometres to northwest. With the courier came orders from the overall commander Klingspor. He had received distressing news that lieutenant-colonel von Otter’s small detachment had been attacked at Nummijärvi (some 105 kilometres southwest of Lapua!) and thus the enemy had taken even Kauhajoki (some 82 kilometres soutwest of Lapua!). Klingspor felt that this severely compromised his positions at Lapua since “the enemy could possibly advance here and I only have two small battalions at hand to resist the enemy.”. Thus Klingspor, without having any idea about the situation a Salmi, instructed Adlercreutz to withdraw his forces who at 5 PM duly started his retreated to Tiisteenjoki some 14 kilometres towards Lapua leaving the field to the astonished Russians who felt that their bravery had easily won them the day.

What is more aggravating in Klingspor’s incompetence is the fact that in addition to von Otter’s small detachment he also had in his disposal the whole 2nd brigade, Gyllenbögels free corps as well as the recently arrived Swedish division under von Vegesack! Klingspor was probably motivated by the fact that he had recently written to the King a proposed about shipping all the troops to Sweden from the coastal city of Vaasa (85 kilometres west by northwest from Lapua) and had during the battle of Salmi just received a strongly worded reply against any such ideas. However, when Adlercreutz’s forces reached Lapua the majority of forces was directed towards Vaasa in the vain hope that perhaps naval evacuation could still be arranged despite king’s clear opposal of such an idea.

Casualties for the three day fighting at Kuortane, Ruona and Salmi were for Swedes 106 dead, 395 wounded and 177 captured (out of these were 2+19+4 officers). On Russian side casualties were 189 dead, 663 wounded and 53 captured (of which 1+15+2 were officers).

Worse than the casualties was the fact that the moral backbone of the army was now broken. Men deemed that it didn’t matter how bravely and successfully you fought since even after beating the enemy you were just going to be ordered to retreat and leave more of the homeland to Russian invaders.

Ratsumestari (captain of cavalry) Möllersvärd wrote to his diary: “The army begins to grow frustrated. Men lack clothing and often we do not receive food. Vegesack has arrived with 3000 men but what good will such a small detachment do anymore! His excellency (naturally) is rumored to retreat even before sunrise. I gather that we won’t do any real opposition with our forces (anymore). The enemy is everywhere and most probably we’ll soon be surrounded. Every day reinforcements arrive from Sweden -in letters! Autumn is fast approaching. Just recently we were full of hope and now it is the opposite! No one wants to leave this nest of disease more than me. Every officer of the squadrons is sick and every day more dragoons fall sick. Horses eat nothing, quality of food is poor and our clothes are torn. As our payments we receive vouchers. What a fine state of events. However (sometimes) we are in a good mood and every now and again even happy.”

After a few days he continues: “The population is very much terrified. They are fleeing to the forests. Everywhere you see crying women who ask when the Russians are upon us. Bridges are being burned, ferries and boats are being destroyed and the roads are nigh impassable. There’s only few hours of light available during the day. It is rainy, windy, cold, the horses are without forage, the enemy is at our heels -this is how we march nowadays!”

Note: If you want to play Salmi to maximum effect, use a GM. This way you can surprise players in various ways. The Russian player shouldn’t know anything about his upcoming reinforcements and the Finnish player about the upcoming withdrawal order.

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