The Battle of Riga, August 15th, 1810 (Part Two)

As the early morning mist slowly lifted from the farmland to the North of Riga, the dispositions of the British and Russian Armies became clear. Both commanders had formed up the bulk of their forces across the Riga highway between the Koiski farmstead with it’s high walls and Orchards and the Orthodox Church of Saint Gregori. Likewise, both Generals had sent the bulk of their cavalry to the far side of the Farmhouse.

However, a surprise was in store for the Lord Latheron, who had expected no more than a reinforced Brigade as opposition as he looked down the road towards the Russian positions. Prince Priorski had managed to scramble together two full brigades of infantry, two regiments of heavy cavalry and a large battery of guns which now straddled the highway.

The Battle of Riga 1810 001

The British who had been woken very early and marched into position made the opening moves, marching cautiously forward towards the Russian forces. There was some initial confusion among the ranks as orders were passed out and then countermanded resulting in a number of regiments blundering about the battlefield in all directions until order was finally restored.

A regiment of Scottish troops seized St. Gregori’s church and with little respect for that sacred place started smashing windows and hammering out loopholes to fire from. It was discovered after the fighting that their Presbyterian puritanism didn’t stop them from looting the Church’s icons and treasures, or drinking the greater part of the communion wine.

As the last British troops finally moved into their agreed starting positions, the Royal Artillery let fly with the first salvo of the day. a rain of solid shot seemed to stir the previously passive Russian Forces. On both sides of the highway, their Infantry marched ponderously forward. On the Russian left, a screen of Cossacks led the Russian Light Brigade forward taunting and challenging their British counterparts. Then with a terrible rumble, akin to a ferocious thunderstorm, the Russian reserve opened fire. Over thirty guns of various calibres let fly at the British lines. even at long range the sheer weight of shot tore great holes in the Red coated ranks.

On the far side of the Koiski farmstead, a trumpet sounded sharp and clear, amidst the battlefield noise, ‘Charge’ was the order for the Briitsh Cavalry. Spurring themselves forward they ran head long into their Russian opponents. After a ferocious opening exchange the two cavalry forces broke off, neither side with a clear advantage, and retreated a ways to reform their lines and resume the clash.

On their second charge the fresher horses and the ferocity of the British cavalry broke the Russian horsemen. As the British heavies swept through their lighter foes, the whole Russian cavalry brigade gave way, some units fleeing for their lives, while others fell back in good order, preventing an utter rout.

Having bested their Russian foes and with their mounts now blown, the British cavalry was content to fall back to their initial positions having achieved the task of securing the British flank. The Russians too fell back to their initial positions, in considerably more disarray than the British and all but spent as an offensive force.

Back in the centre, the battle was in full swing with the Russians advancing on the thinly spread British lines. Green coated lines of Russian Infantry traded murderous volleys with their Red Coated opponents. But as in the Iberian Peninsula the British tactics and fire discipline proved superior to the Russian’s. Jaeger units unused to maneuvering with their brother units proved ineffective in comparison to their rifle armed British counterparts, despite their similar green uniforms.

Even the disciplined fire and fearlessness of the Pavlovsk Grenadiers could not break the resolve of the Redcoats. Confusion started to reign in the Russian lines, until Prince Priorski sensed the time was right to unleash his trump card, a brigade of elite, armoured Cuirassiers. As squadron after squadron of armoured men on giant horses thundered down the highway, it was the turn of the British to panic. Squares were hastily formed and despite the disordered nature of the maneuvering the Russian heavies could not break through the tightly packed squares bristling with bayonets.

With the British in seeming disarray, the Russian artillery, the so-called ‘Gods of War’ pounded the densely packed formations in front of them. Whole regiments broke under the sheer weight of artillery fire and things looked very grim indeed for Lord Latheron and his forces. However, Fortune chose this moment share some of her favour on the British. The Scottish regiments occupying the far left flank rallied, reformed and moved forward aggressively forward their previous positions in the Church and the nearby graveyard falling upon the exposed Russian flank. On far side of the field a lone battery of the Royal Artillery seized their chance unlimber and take up position on the Russians over extended left flank.

Caught between the murderous fire of the British Artillery and the valiant Scots the Russian infantry began to waver. As casualties mounted some units began to give ground in the face of such awesome power. And as such things are wont to happen the first steps back by some battalions set the rest of the infantry to falling back. Prince Priorski could scarcely believe his eyes as both of his brigades began to slowly retreat in the face of the British fire. Three things prevented the Russian retreat turning into a rout. First, the British had no fresh reserves to throw into the fight. secondly, the fearsome wall of Russian artillery held it’s ground and continued to savage any British units threatening to rush forward. Finally, Prince Priorski’s magnificent Heavy Cavalry were still largely intact and it would have been madness to provoke them onto action again.

Lord Latheron surveyed the field, watching the Russians fall back,soundly beaten but still in relatively good order. Looking at his own lines he felt pride swelling in his chest at such a stunning victory but also a healthy measure of despair at the fearsome price the British had had to pay for their victory this day.

In the following days, Prince Priorski moved his forces south east content to observe the British and await reinforcements. The British moved to invest Riga while their relatively intact cavalry screened their movements. When the British arrived before the walls of Riga, the Governor had no choice but to surrender the city as he only had a small force of Opolechnie Militia to defend the city. The British not wanting to provoke the Russians further, contented themselves with blowing up the city arsenal and dismantling the port’s defenses. A few days later, the Royal Navy sailed completely untouched into the harbour and the British expedition embarked unmolested.

The British punitive expedition had proven a great success. despite the horrific casualties suffered. Clashes between the Royal and Imperial navies in the Baltic ceased and, much to the dismay of Napoleon, trade began to resume between the two belligerents despite Tsar Alexander’s promises to uphold the ‘Continental System’. The first cracks in the Franco-Russian alliance that would lead to the events of 1812 had begun to appear.

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