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War of 1808-09
Refight of Koljonvirta, 3rd of November 2008
Setup for the game. The ceasefire is about to end and on the eastern side of Koljonvirta Russian are advancing from Iisalmi almost just off the board.
While Captain Brusin goes to negotiate the continuation of the ceasefire with the Russians, on the western side IV Savo jaegers and a section of 3 pounders guard the bridge over Koljonvirta near Kauppila farm.
Further to the north at Linna farm the small Oulu battalion provides infantry support for Finnish artillery. The section on the western side is commanded by Ensign Taube and the ones on the eastern side by Ensigns Gyllenbögel and Kalmberg.
Way up north furthest away from the fortifications at Kattaala crown storehouse was the 2nd battalion of Pohjanmaa regiment and two 3 pounders of Lieutenant Svibelius. Somewhat to the south of Kattaala, at Fredriksdal manor, where Sandel's command post was located, were half of the small Kajaani battalion and Swedish 1st battalion of Västerbottens regiment along with the two Ensign Tammelander's 6 pounders.
Turn 1. A battalion of Russian 4th jaegers deploys in skirmish formation and a firefight erupts between them and the Finnish rear guard. Some Savo jaegers dismantle the remainder of the bridge over Koljonvirta.
Turn 2. Russians bring more jaegers into the firefight. However the IV Savo jaegers step out of the musket range and use their longer reaching rifles. The Russians fire at the 3 pounder and manage to inflict a casualty but get hit themselves by canister.
Turn 3. As IV Savo jaegers try to keep the distance favourable to their rifles the first Russians manage to cross the bridge beams. However the Savo jaegers reply by rolling a double six and thus inflict more casualties.
Turn 4. Undaunted by the casualties the 4th jaegers press on by sending even more men over the stream. The IV Savo jaegers steadily pick their targets and roll another double sixes. 1st battalion of 4th jaegers has now 7 casualties.
Turn 5. First Russian artillery is now in position is spite of the horrendous traffic jam caused by the long time it takes for units to cross the mostly dismantled bridge and the large number of Russian troops.
Turn 6. As more and more Russians cross the bridge and the Russian artillery now in position, the rear guard decides to disengage. The IV Savo jaegers cover the retreat of the artillery.
Turn 7. The Russians fire at the fleeing Finnish rear guard. One artillery section finds that it has expended most of its ammunition and is now low on ammo.
Troops at Linna farm watch the rear guard make a fighting withdrawal from the Kauppila farm and the Koljonvirta bridge in the face of overwhelming numbers.
Turn 8. The Russian jaegers give only half hearted chase to the retreating IV Savo jaegers preferring rather to cover their own troops crossing the remnants of the bridge.
Turn 9. The Russian artillery fires against the troops behind the fortifications instead of the jaegers and manages to hit the small Oulu battalion causing it to retreat. Some buildings at Linna also catch fire (no effect on the game, but as this happened historically we always do it in our Koljonvirta games).
More and more Russian jaegers pour over the almost dismantled bridge and plenty more toops wait for their turn to cross Koljonvirta.
IV Savo jaegers keep the distance to the Russians and pester them with their longer reaching rifles..
Turn 10. Russian artillery now concentrates its fire against the Finnish artillery. Oulu battalion manages to rally.
Sandels has left his dinner table at the Fredriksdal manor and is now arriving to the battlefield proper. The Oulu battalion has retreated due to casualties from enemy artillery fire. The 3 pounders of the rear guard are moving to a flanking positions to the west of the fortifications.
Turn 11. IV Savo jaegers have no intention of letting an opportunity to fire at the advancing Russian jaegers pass by.
The rear guard action was now more or less complete so we decided to fast forward a bit and have the Russians be ready for their assault instead slowly moving more troops over the bridge. Only Prince Dolgoruki's troops are in disposal and out of those two battalions have to be used to provide flank/rear cover as Finns might go around the lake Ala-Tismiö and thus threaten the retreat route.
Turn 12. Russians deploy the 1st Navajinsk musketeers in skirmish order to provide cover for the advancing columns and the troops start towards the Finnish fortifications. Russian artillery score a double six against the Finnish artillery who have one of their gun destroyed (actually one of the guns from the same section was damaged during the real battle as well and it had to be withdrawn). The same result also causes a suspicious friendly fire incident as a bullet is fired towards Sandels from the direction of Oulu battalion, clearly these northern guys don't like front line service.
Turn 13. Russian skirmishers are now in range and open fire. The Finnish flanking artillery (from the rear guard) scores a double six against the 2nd Navajinsk musketeers, thus faltering it, and also manage to hit Prince Dolgoruki. However, the Prince is no pauper and has a high quality watch which stops the shot.
1st Västerbottens and half of the Kajaani battalions march towards the fray.
Turn 14. Finnish artillery again hits 2nd Navajinsk musketeers causing it to falter again. The Russian jaegers now block their artillery from firing against the Finnish fortifications.
Turn 15. The Finnish artillery ignores the pesky Russian skirmishers in front of them and fires canister at the two advancing Tenguisk musketeer battalions.
Turn 16. Both Tenguisk battalions charge the Finnish artillery but the 2nd battalion's attack grinds to a halt due to the murderous fire it receives. However, in the face of the advance of the 1st battalion the Finnish artillerymen lose heart, leave their guns and retreat which later on turns into a rout. The Russians climb over the fortifications and find out that the reverse slope behind has been sheltering several small Finnish battalions that now open fire.
Lieutenant-General Tutškov observing how the young Prince Dolgoruki assaults the Finnish fortifications.
Turn 17. Oulu battalion moves forward against the 2nd Navajinsk musketeers in order to give the 2nd Vaasa battalion room to attack against the 2nd Tenguisk no matter what will happen to it this turn. While 1st Tenguisk reforms Prince Dolgoruki leads the 2nd battalion into a desperate charge downhill against the two small Finnish battalions: 1st Vaasa and half of the Kajaani battalion. Unsurprisingly the Russians smash the Finns (13 vs 5) who rout away. The routing Finnish artillerymen disperse.
Turn 18. 2nd Tenguisk and 2nd Navajinsk both charge the Oulu battalion that ventured away from the safety of the fortifications. The defensive fire from Savo jaegers and Finnish artillery is forceful that it disperses 2nd Tenguisk musketeers and the unit never reaches its target. 2nd Navajinsk beats Oulu battalion and causes it to retreat. Sandels leads 2nd Vaasa battalion to the flank of the 1st Tenguisk musketeers who are now unformed by the previous turn's melee and, hardly surprisingly, this attack (+10 on the melee table for the Finns) drives the Russians away from the fortifications. 1st Vaasa battalion reforms and the skirmishing 1st Navajinsk musketeers falter.
Turn 19. Massive reforming. The beaten half of Kajaani battalion, Oulu battalion and 1st Tenguisk musketeers all manage to reform.
Turn 20. 2nd Navajinsk charges 2nd Vaasa battalion but the fire from Finns makes them retreat instead. Half of the skirmishing 1st Navajinsk are within charge reach of the small reserve company of the Karelian dragoons and make the charge. Even if protected by fortifications the triple outnumbering does the trick and disperses the poor dismounted dragoons.
Turn 21. The 1st Tenguisk charges 2nd Vaasa battalion who decide that it ain't no fun to fight against a much larger battalion and take a move backwards so that the Russian charge doesn't have a possibility of reaching them. Oulu battalion goes into skirmish formation and moves in between thes etwo battalions to fire at the 1st Tenguisk. The last remaining Finnish artillery in the fortification wheels as to get the 1st Tenguisk into firing arc next turn. The retreat of 2nd Navajinsk turns into a rout.
Turn 22. The frustrated 1st Tenguisk now tries to charge 1st Västerbottens but the fire from Oulu battalion and the canister fire from the Finnish artillery, turns the attack into a retreat. The stubborn battalion rallies in the morale phase, though. 2nd Navajinsk is not so lucky as it disperses. The fresh half of Kajaani battalion advances against the skirmishing Russians and pushes them in front of it.
Turn 23. As it is getting darker and darker all the time, Prince Dolgoruki sees that his attack has absolutely no chance of succeeding any more and orders a retreat. The Finns didn't manage to break Dolgoruki's brigade but it did get mauled pretty badly. Then again, so did Finnish artillery.
The overall Russian commander in Finland General Buxhöwden had received stern orders from the war minister and the Emperor that the standstill in Finland must be broken. In order to achieve a more active push in the eastern, Savo theatre, the Emperor sent a trusted man with close personal ties to the front, General-Adjutant prince M. P. Dolgoruki who was engaged to the Emperor's sister. As Prince Dolgoruki arrived to Iisalmi on October 26th it apparently was not clear between the two whether Dolgoruki should take command from the old commander Lieutenant-General N. A. Tutškov or not, so Tutškov remained the commander of eastern theatre. This threat to Tutškov's position might've caused some command friction between the two and may even have been one of the reasons why Tutškov committed basically just the Dolgoruki's brigade to the attack. Then again the isthmus where Finnish positions were located was very narrow and the bridge over Koljonvirta had been almost totally dismantled by the retreating Finns, so the retreat route was hardly clear.
The weather was clear and in the morning the approaching winter could be felt as ice had alomost started forming on the near freezing water.
There has been plenty of debate whether the Russians started their actions an hour early, since they were using “St. Petersburg time”. The Finns were hoping that the ceasefire would be extended and thus hadn't really seen the need to totally dismantle the 60 metre bridge over Koljonvirta. They tried to stall by sending Lieutenant Brusin with a small detachments of dragoons to negotiate with Dolgoruki about the continuation of the ceasefire but met only his adjutant count Tolstoi who told Brusin that negotiations were over and now guns would do the talking whereafter the Finns were chased away by some shots and cossacks. The two officers did manage to compare watches and noticed that there was a difference of 35 minutes between their two watches.
Fire from Savo jaegers caused the cossacks to move away and Brusin ordered the bridge to be dismantled and jaegers started doing so. But soon Russian jaegers, battalion of Tenguisk musketeers and eight pieces of artillery began firing at them and thy had to leave the task unfinished and retreated to the cover of Kauppila farm. Russian engineers under Captain Klutšarev managed to make the remains of the bridge more serviceable with some fagots and planks, and around 3 PM the 4th jaegers tediously ran across the bridge a few at a time and started storming Kauppila farm forcing the Savo jaegers to retreat to Linna farm.
The Russians had one artillery section take positions on the eastern side of the Lake Iivesi but with few shots from the Ensign Tammelander's guns these were quieted. Likewise one guns from the Finns was made unserviceable by the Russian artillery fire and had to be drawn away.
While Navajinsk and Tenguisk regiments covered the southwestern approach around Lake Ala Tismiö which caused a threat to their retreat route over Koljonvirta, apparently it was Aleksejev who led the 4th jaeger regiment against Finnish fortifications with one battalion of Revel regiment in tow. Prince Dolgoruki is said to have uttered: "God be with you gentlemen. Over there you have Crosses of the Order of St. George waiting for you." The Russians under Major Obernibäsov and Captain Rusinov managed to breach the fortifications but during the attack the troops had lost cohesion.
At this moment Sandels ordered Colonel Fahlander to counterattack with the troops that were in the reverse slope behind the Linna farm. Oulu battalion, half of the Kajaani battalion and the dismounted reserve dragoon company were directed against the front of the Russians while Vaasa regiment and Savo jaegers struck the Russian left flank. The Russians were beaten away from the fortification and retreated in disorder towards the bridge which was way too narrow to accommodate a mass of panicking troops followed by the Finnish infantry and Ensign Taube's 6 pounders as well as some 3 pounders. At the same time Prince Dolgoruki was hit by a cannonball and death of this charismatic leader apparently added to the confusion. Lieutenant-General Tutškov was also wounded.
In the darkening night firefight continued over Koljonvirta. Since the Finnish troops were beginning to have expended their ammunition Sandels now ordered the fresh Pohjanmaa, Västerbottens and the remaining half of Kajaani battalions to take over the fighting from the other Finnish units. Later on around 7 PM Sandels sent captain Burman to the bridge to parley with the Russians to see if the Russians wanted to take care of their own wounded and dead. The Russians suggested a 24 hour ceasefire but Sandels said that unless the Russians wanted to continue fighting it had to last for 36 hours which was agreed on. Apparently when the Russians started to clean up the bridge they threw all their troops, both dead and the wounded, to Koljonvirta. When riding from Linna to the bridge to ratify the ceasefire with Aleksejev and seeing the hundreds of mauled bodies Sandels said: "Gentlemen, this is a small Austerlitz!"
It is not clear which Finnish artilleryman shot Prince Dolgoruki but he was hit while on the eastern shore and just having stopped to receive a letter from a courier. Story has it that the artilleryman had been trying to get the bead on the constantly moving Dolgoruki for a quite a long time and said "There is the bird, but the creature won't stay still." Immediately when Dolgoruki stopped he fired the gun and after the smoke dissipated it was clear from the reactions of those around the target that the ball had found its mark.
Casualties at Koljonvirta were one of the highest during the war. On Finnish side: 34 dead and 282 wounded (out of these were 2+13 officers). Russian casualties were 221 dead, 479 wounded and 73 captures (of which 5+20+2 were officers).
Sven Tuuva is most probably a name that rings a bell with all the Finns and quite a few Swedes as well. Immortalized in his poem of the same name the Finnish national poet J. L. Runeberg depicts this dumb but righteous and strong soldier's life and death at Koljonvirta. The character is somewhat based on a true soldier. Soldier number 100 from Mustasaari company of Vaasa regiment named Bång charged the Russians from Linna along with his comrades. Bayonet wasn't enough so he grabbed the barrel of his musket and hit all around with the stock while chasing the Russians to the bridge. There he fell to the ground with numerous severe wounds on him. The fallen man was trampled by both Finns and Russians as he was believed to be dead. Apparently the following day it was noticed that he was still alive and the farmer Kauppila drove him to the field hospital. Bång also fought against French in 1813 (as well as Norwegians in 1814) and is thought to have said that "The French weren't insidious nor cowards like the Russians. No, they were soldiers, brave and valiant. They prefered to stand and die where they had been commanded rather than flee." To add flavor to the refight we gave +1 melee modifier to 1st battalion of Vaasa regiment to simulate this brave soldier. The battalion also has one converted figure swinging his musket by the barrel (made from an ages old Minifigs New Kingdom Egyptian with a suitable pose)
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