With the completion of the 2/48th, I thought it would be interesting to look at the fighting that occurred on their part of the Talavera battlefield with the first attack of the day. The principle source used for this account is from Talavera - Wellington's First Victory in Spain by Andrew W. Field, an excellent book on the battle.
The two battalions of the 48th were at the centre of General Hill's deployment of his 2nd Division atop the Cerro de Medellin, with Brigadier General Richard Stewart's Brigade (29th, 1st Detachments, 1/48th) on the left front of the hill and Major General Christopher Tilson's Brigade (2/48th 2/66th, 1/3rd) on the right front. This after surviving the abortive night attack by Ruffin's division, where both battalions suffered minimal casualties 1/48th eight men and 2/48th three men.
|General Hill's 2nd Division can be seen holding the top of the Cerro de Medellin|
At 5 am a single signal gun fired from the Cerro de Cascajal initiating a tremendous artillery barrage of over fifty French cannon as Marshal Victor's I Corps Grand Battery opened up on on the Medellin opposite. The order was given to the troops to drop back behind the ridge line and lie down.
A witness described how
"they served their guns in an infinitely better style than at Vimeiro: their shells were thrown with precision, and did considerable execution."
Oman reckons this barrage went on for about forty-five minutes before the French assault columns of General Ruffin's division commenced their attack on the Medellin, as they tried to do what they failed to do the night before.
Because they had pulled back and with all the artillery smoke hanging in the air, the British heard the French advance before they saw it. The sound of French drums beating the attack through a veil of smoke, with that of the firing as the two skirmish screens came ever closer, fighting for advantage, must have been very disconcerting to the newer men.
As the heads of the columns approached within 100 yards of the ridge line, Hill gave his battalions the order to stand up and advance so they looked down on the advancing French. The six battalions delivered a shattering volley that brought the columns to a standstill, as the front ranks fell in disordered heaps and the following ranks hesitated.
Ensign Clarke of the 2/66th on the right of the 2/48th described his battalion's actions
"Our orders were to lie down behind the ridge until the enemy's column had reached the top, then to rise, deliver a volley, and charge. I was sent to the summit by the commanding officer to let him know where the enemy were and returned with the intelligence that a strong column was only fifty yards off. The volley was delivered and we rushed on them with the bayonet. At first they appeared as if they would stand the charge, but when we closed they wavered, and then they turned and ran down the hill in the wildest confusion."
Meanwhile on the left flank of the Medellin, Wellesley ordered Stewart's brigade to charge, with a participant recording,
"on we went, a wall of stout hearts and bristling steel. The enemy did not fancy such close quarters, and the moment our rush began they went to the right-about. The principal portion broke and fled, though some brave fellows occasionally faced about and gave us an irregular fire."
The momentum of charging down such a steep slope and the adrenalin of success took all six of Hill's battalions down the hill to the Portina Brook. Some of the more enthusiastic fellows even crossed the stream and started up the slopes of the Cascajal, until coming under fire from French artillery and reserves under General Villatte.
A French account of the attack has Colonel Jamin commanding the 24eme de Ligne, shouting
"Au revoir Messieurs les Anglais" as he retired with his survivors, and receiving a mocking reply from a British officer of "Au revoir Monsieur le Colonel; au revoir messieurs!"
The French committed 4,900 men to this attack against the 3,700 British troops. They suffered heavy losses with Oman calculating the number to be about 1,300 casualties. However the British did not get off lightly suffering 750 casualties including the wounded Lieutenant Colonel Muter of the 3rd Foot who would die the next day of his wounds.
The 2/48th started the day with 567 men but would end it with 68 fewer, with 12 killed, 55 wounded and 1 missing.
My 2/48th are composed of figures from the Xan range of British infantry with the mounted officer and ensigns from AB. The Colours are from GMB Flags.
The other principle source consulted for this post was the Napoleon Series.
The completion of the 2/48th, just leaves, the two battalions (1/61st and 2/83rd) of Cameron's brigade of the 1st Division to do, the two heavy cavalry regiments (3rd Dragoon Guards, 4th Dragoons), some additional artillery limbers and about half a dozen general officers to finish Wellesley's army. However the next posts will concentrate on the Spanish division of General Portago and the first scenario, Casa de Salinas.