Second Alost, Part Two

10:15

Up front, the French are making progress. To the rear and to the side, things are falling apart quickly.

View from behind the Prussian lines. On the right, the French have come to “push of pike” with the Prussian infantry. Note the unattended cannon in the center where French counter-battery fire has temporarily silenced a Prussian battery.
The careful Prussian commander, finally feeling secure about his left flank, has ordered half his infantry to swing in and envelope the French attack.

The Royal Etranger (at the far edge of that huddle of cavalry,) beset by more than twice their number with more coming on, have decided that discretion is the better part of valour and will follow their brigade companions off the field. One regiment of French dragoons remains and it is in poor shape, and it is about to tangle with two regiments of Hannoverian Kurassiers (Third and fourth lines in center of picture.

10:30

The French may be able to break out, but they may not have much to break out with.

II/4e Piemonte charge into the waiting over-sized first battalion of the First Prussian Regiment. After a period of hacking and stabbing they both fall back.

The vaunted First of the First breaks and runs, throwing the Prussian right flank into considerable confusion.

As seen from the French lines: With two Prussian battalions recoiling on their right flank, a bit of a hole has been opened in the Allied position.

(As seen from the Austrian position.) Supported now on their flank by the Austrians, the Prussian left flank continues to close on the French.

The Austrian infantry (and artillery) continue to stream on in parade ground order behind their cavalry. However will they arrive in time to make a difference?

The first Hannoverian infantry begins to make an appearance. They may be needed to destroy the pinned-down French rear guard.
After the Hannoverian Kurassiers break a hole in the French rear guard, they swing around to take an infantry battalion in rear while British horse assails it from in front. The battalion is soon forced to surrender.

 10:45

 

With deadly fire the French send a battalion of Prussian grenadiers flying. They are that much closer to the important bridge (just out of sight below the middle foreground of the picture.)
From behind the Prussian lines you can see the Swiss troops (red coat) as they capture a second Prussian gun that has been abandoned by its crew. 

11:00

The Prussian defenses are crumbling as three more of their battalions are sent running. There is no longer anything between the French and the bridge.

The way is cleared! The end of the bridge is in sight and the enemy are flying!
In the center background, two Prussian battalions are driven off by the Courten (Swiss) Regiment (red coats). In the foreground can be seen two battalions of French grenadiers.

11:15

(As seen from the French lines) The Prussian right flank is in tatters. One battalion remains; a second falls back; to the rear, two more battalions are reforming. Plus the French grenadier battalions have finally arrived ready to fight.

The first French battalion begins to cross the bridge. Actually, they are Irish, the O’Brien de Clare Regiment. It is a case of whomever is closest.

11:30

More French begin to cross as the Prussians fall back to regroup and wait for reinforcements.

11:45

Success at the front, but potential disaster to the rear.

The French advance, but not too aggressively as the Prussians stand off for now. Another battalion is across the bridge with a battery of artillery right behind. The abandoned Prussian guns are being left behind as the French have no way of moving them.
However all is not well. The Austrians (solid columns at top middle) are pushing their way between the French main body and their rearguard.

In the middle of the French position, the III battalion of 71e Berry has remained behind to protect the baggage train and artillery batteries bringing up the rear of the French main body. With their steadfast volleys they have now seen off charges from TWO Austrian dragoon regiments. At the upper edge toward the right can be seen (barely) the French rearguard in action.

Five battalions of the French rearguard engage Austrian grenadiers backed up by Hannoverian and English cavalry, while two more attempt to get away (foreground.) Things are not looking good for the rearguard as the Allied cavalry is circling around them and the Hannoverian infantry is coming up.

12:00

A French artillery battery rumbles over the bridge while the Prussians are still reorganizing. However things are getting desperate for the French rearguard, which is almost surrounded.

Trouble in the rearguard as the battalion closer to the main body (center in picture), while under fire breaks and flees, leaving a lovely gap.

12:15

More trouble as another of the lead battalions of the rearguard breaks and runs (right center, not foreground. Foreground is the previously broken battalion.)

12:30

The remaining three battalions of the rearguard take up strong positions, finally realizing they are cut off from the main body. They will hold on as long as they can before surrendering, to give the main body more time to escape. That’s Austrian infantry to the left foreground, Hannoverian infantry and cavalry left and center background, and English cavalry coming around them to the upper right.

12:45

Back at the bridge, the first line of the renewed Prussian assault is repulsed, as troops continue to cross the bridge to safety.

13:00

Front left, a continuous stream of French troops cross the bridge. In the background center and right the second line of the Prussian attack has fared only slightly better against the French grenadiers, with most of the units repulsed. Just out of the picture to the right the Austrian infantry is approaching.

13:15

With the help of a battery now established across the Rupel river, (see smoke from battery on the left just above the bridge) the French manage to fend off the last wave of Prussian attackers. (Seen from above and behind the French lines.)

With the Austro-Hungarians stymied at the base of this cauldron and the supply train and rear-guard batteries about to cross, the remnants of the French Army look as if they have made off.

In consultation Marlborough orders the Prussian commander to sound the recall. As he has scattered the French cavalry and more than 50% of the French infantry across the countryside, and considering that the only hope of trapping the rest of the French – the Prussian infantry – are exhausted, he believes he has done as much as he possibly could on this battlefield. The Austrians are still fresh, but in their position all they can do is push the French toward the bridge.

There are still two fords along the Rupel River between this bridge and Termonde that the French commander didn’t know about. Much of the French cavalry and infantry that have broken and fled back toward Termonde will be able to cross. Still, many will drown trying to cross the river, many others will surrender and many will take the chance to desert. It will be a long time before the scattered French formations will be reformed, with considerably fewer numbers. The Allies have a huge advantage for the now.

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