Fresh from routing the Anglo Hanoverian forces of Sackville-Baggins, Count Hardin resolved to take his army into Poland quite late in the season to seek battle with the Russians. Perhaps the Pork War could be ended before the close of the year?
Count Akraxin the Russian concentrated his forces near the magazine at Kovel, where the fodder in the surrounding fields had yet to be exhausted. The Russian cavalry was still in excellent form after its recent defeat at the hands of Wolfenbuttel. With five elite regiments of horse present, The Russians were confident of their ability to hold against all comers.
Count Hardin was understandably apprehensive. He resolved to attack the Russians rapidly, approaching from the northwest by march column, with his own horse sweeping in from the west of Kovel. These maneuvers ran afoul of a large detachment of Zeity Hussars posted as a piquet northwest of the Russian camp.
The Zeity’s, in the best traditions of the Empress’ cavalry, deployed to threaten the Hungarian infantry columns which diverted their march slightly to the north before deploying into line. The Hungarian horse moved in from the west but did not rush the hussars, instead Count Hardin directed his artillery and foot to clear them out with fire. The Zeity’s for their part had some hope of running down the Hungarian batteries posted to their front, but these maneuvers came to nought. After a brief skirmish, the Hussars were cleared out and the way was clear for Count Hardin.
With the hussar skirmish concluded, Akraxin turned his attention to readying his main forces for the Hungarian attack. The artillery was positioned east of Kovel, facing the Hungarian foot north of the town. The feared Russian horse was moved up behind the guns. But the Russian foot was left in its postions south of Kovel, facing west. Even before these preparations were completed, the Russian guns opened a bombardment on the Hungarian foot.
Count Hardin moved his infantry forward deliberately, while his horse swept in from the west. His own guns joined in to encourage an exposed Russian cavalry regiment to fall back, safegarding the advance. Fortunately for Hardin, the Russian artillery was not having a good day. Concentrating their fire on the guard infantry on the extreme left of the Hungarian line, the results were much below average throughout the fight.
Hardin seemed to have the Russians fairly outmaneuvered and was in no hurry to close the deal. Possibly there was no need to hurry as the Russians did hold a compact position and their elite cavalry was an obvious cause for concern. Akraxin, for his part, trusted to his elite horse and artillery to hold the line. The artillery was having a bad day, but the elite regiments of Russian horse proved a hard nut to crack even when the Hungarian foot moved up to musketry range.
Count Akraxin joined contact with a cavalry charge that met the Hungarian horse head on with two regiments while a third aimed at an infantry battalion bogged in a field further north. The charges were held. Ultimately two of the regiments on this wing of the Russian cav were broken, the third continued to stop up Hardin’s advance. Count Hardin continued to play it cool. Pausing to rally, slowly grinding back against the elite Russian horse, the Hungarians had all the right cards to play and meant to play them in their own good time.
But the light was failing. The shorter September day was coming into play. Akraxin was fully prepared to sacrifice his elite horse to hold the line and use all the tricks he could muster to slow the Hungarians down in front of Kovel. Hardin dispaired of taking the town. But he had not lost a unit yet, and the Russian army had been pushed to the point of collapse.
The crises in the battle was reached. The Russians, within an inch of breaking, saw the last of the sand run from the glass. Darkness decended on the field. Count Akraxin had held.
The Russian victory was a costly one. The finest cavalry in Europe had been hard used. In contrast the Hungarians only suffered slight loss. The battle allowed Hardin to improve the quality of his forces substantially. It is now up to the Russian allies to capitalize on Akraxin’s sacrifice and win the war before the anti-Pork Camp can rally.