Next up on our series of Finnish War 1808 games is the Battle of Ruona. The summer attack of the Swedish army has lost its steam and now the Russians are advancing again. At Ruona, the Swedish army of 6400 faced a Russian force of approximately 9000 troops. I'm sure you can find better accounts of the battle elsewhere, but in a nutshell: The Swedish army had a good defensive position overlooking a bridge between Kuortane and Ruona. They had also built some defensive works along the line north of that position. The Russians attempted to outflank the Swedish army from the north but were repulsed. Parts of the Swedish army counterattacked and some fierce fighting took place at the Heroja farm. Night fell and both armies retreated from the field. The Russians pursued the Swedish army and fought another battle close by in Salmi the next day. After this battle the war started to seem lost for the kingdom of Sweden and the army began to lose heart.
For this game we went to the location of the battle itself. I visited there a year ago to explore the place myself and decided lure some friends to play a game there this year. The field at Ruona is remarkably well preserved and most of the surroundings are pretty much the way they were 200 years ago. For our game we rented a local closed down school building which also housed a museum room dedicated to the battle. There we could set up our table, have some barbeque and beer and warm up the sauna for post-game discussions of military wisdom.
First we went to tour the battlefield with maps in hand. I'll include some of the pictures here for you, as well as some drone photos I took last year. I had problems with my cell phone so I couldn't fly my drone this year but the aerial photos are fresh enough.
The Ruona bridge and Swedish gun positions
Takala farm and surrounding fields
The position of the Savolax Brigade on the northern flank
Heroja farm and the Russian side of the field
Walking the battlefield we made many observations on how the terrain had influenced the decisions made on the day. The Swedish army, for example, must have been stretched very, very thin because the line was about 3 kilometers long and was held with only 6000 men. The visibility over the fields was good and it was unlikely that any great manoeuvers could go unnoticed. The area around Ruona bridge was very marshy and crossing the 600 meter wooden bridge under artillery fire and musketry would have been suicide for either army.
After the battlefield tour and a break, we played the game itself. I'll let the picture commentary do the talking, but the big picture was that the Russians attempted to break through the northern flank of the Swedish army with a much larger force than they did historically. For a moment it looked like they would indeed break the Savonians guarding the road to Salmi, but the attack faltered to musket and grapeshot. In General de Brigade (the rules we use) units suffering losses get pinned down pretty easily and have a hard time getting moving again, and this worked against the attackers. The Russians managed to turn the Savonian line on the northernmost end, but the day came to a close and the road to Salmi remained in Savonian hands, so we judged the Russians having failed. Whilst the main battle was underway in the north, the men of the Åbo regiment attempted to move on Heroja farm to cut off the attackers from the main army, but having ample reserves, the Russians could easily reinforce that section and the Åbo men called off the attack, turning north instead. The Russians withdrew to their side of the field and the battle ended.
In our games, we estimate that about a third of the losses in the miniature game represent actual dead and wounded men. In this game, the Russians lost 486 men, with Yankovich wounded. The Swedish army lost 136 men, four guns were destroyed and Cedergren wounded. With these numbers, the day had been less bloody than historically, but the end result would be the same. The Swedish position on the extended line would be untenable so they'd have to retreat to Salmi as they did historically. The Russians would no doubt remain on the field as they would be under no illusion of a Swedish counterattack.
All in all, the day was a great success and the battlefield visit enriched the game greatly. Now our campaign will move on to the Autumn of 1808 and towards the melancholy end of the war.
Figures by Heroics and Ros 6mm
Rules: General de Brigade by David Brown
Scenario combined from GemiGaBok and Sword and Saber publishing's Finnish war scenarios.