Friday, September 14, 2012

Military History Class: Tactics Exercise

 My Military History course is up and running, with ten high school seniors (five boys and five girls).  After reading a few chapters of Sun Tzu and Clausewitz' handbook on tactics (published in 1810, a few years before On War), I gave them a tactical problem.  They had a division of Napoleonic French to deploy, with some supporting cavalry and infantry.  None of them knew where or how the Austrians to their north had deployed.  Each student prepared a plan for homework.  I broke them into small groups, each of which presented a refined plan to the class.  My department head was observing, so he chose the plan that he thought was best thought out.

They took a few lessons from their readings to heart: to avoid a frontal assault against a prepared enemy, to pounce on a weak point with the greater part of your strength, to use skirmishers to learn the disposition of the enemy.  No-one really understood what to do with artillery (though Clausewitz was pretty clear on its use), and the concept of pinning down the enemy's strength was challenging for them.

Here are the three plans.  The first is by an all-girl group that thought a pincer movement would trap the Austrians.  They referred to the happy guys in the center as their "sacrifice".  They need to use the term "pinning force."
This group had a very complex plan, all strong side and no weak side.  While the objectives of each unit were well considered, my department head rightly pointed out that each element's success depended on the success of the unit before it, and one slight hiccup could bollix up the whole works.

Here's the plan that eventually won, more or less a compromise between the two other approaches. If the small holding force in the center remains strong enough to hold off the main body of the Austrians, they stood a good chance of rolling up the ridgeline with their main body and flanking the Austrian infantry.

Then, for fun, we set the table with my 10mm Napoleonics.  A few were disappointed that we didn't game out the rest of the scenario.  For that, they'll have to wait until next month.

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