Sunday 15 February 2015

Casa de Salinas - Talavera, Game One

The calm before the storm
British Order of Battle, showing unit strength/quality, officer quality/command range
[ 501] Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley - Active A [1500 paces]

Division Sir Alexander Mackenzie - Defend Orders
[ 502] Major General Sir Alexander Mackenzie - Active C+ [800 paces]
[ 501] 2/24th Foot (Warwickshire)  708 C
[ 502] 2/31st Foot (Huntingdonshire)  660 C
[ 503] 1/45th Foot (Nottinghamshire) 680 C+
[ 504] Mackenzie's Bde. Light Bttn. 228 C

Brigade Sir Rufane Shaw Donkin - Defend Orders
[ 503] Brigadier General Sir Rufane Shaw Donkin - B [450 paces]
[ 505] 2/87th (P of Wales Own Irish) 539 C
[ 506] 1/88th (Connaught Rangers) 539 C
[ 507] 5/60th (Rifles) 220 B
[ 508] Donkins Bde. Light Battalion 175 C

Brigade George Anson - Defend Orders
[ 504] Brigadier General George Anson - Active C+ [400 paces]
[ 509] 23rd Light Dragoons 459 C
[ 510] 1st KGL Light Dragoons 451 C+

3749 Bayonets
910 Sabres
4659 Total of all arms
10 Standards present

Map showing British setup areas in red, French arrival area in blue
French Order of Battle, showing unit strength/quality, officer quality/command range 
[ 101] General de Division Pierre- Bellon Lapisse - Active C- [725 paces]
[ 115] 2/3me Artillerie a Cheval 155 [ 4 Guns, 2 Howitzers] C

Brigade Solignac - Attack Orders
[ 102] General de Brigade Solignac - Active C [350 paces]
[ 101] 1/8me Regiment de Ligne 489 C
[ 102] 2/8me Regiment de Ligne 460 C
[ 103] 3/8me Regiment de Ligne 462 C-
[ 104] 1/54me Regiment de Ligne 498 C
[ 105] 2/54me Regiment de Ligne 457 C
[ 106] 3/54me Regiment de Ligne 497 C-
[ 107] Solignac's Voltigeurs 569 C

Brigade Laplannes - Attack Orders
[ 103] General de Brigade Laplannes - Active C- [350 paces]
[ 108] 1/16me Regiment de Legere 494 C
[ 109] 2/16me Regiment de Legere 462 C
[ 110] 3/16me Regiment de Legere 487 C-
[ 111] 1/45me Regiment de Ligne 454 C
[ 112] 2/45me Regiment de Ligne 498 C
[ 113] 3/45me Regiment de Ligne 482 C-
[ 114] Laplannes Voltigeurs 564 C

6873 Bayonets
155 Artillerists
6 Cannon
7028 Total of all arms
4 Standards present

The attack by General de Division Lapisses columns began at 13.00 on a hot sultry afternoon with just the hint of light rain and a summer thunder storm in the air. The last units of General Cuesta's Spanish columns had passed the Casa an hour and a half previously followed by General Sherbrooke's 1st Division, and the ground about the derelict farm was littered with redcoats relaxing in the shade of the trees. Staff officers could be observed riding up to the buildings and going and coming, with their focus very much towards the road leading down through the trees towards the River Alberche and the approaching army of King Joseph.

Just occasionally the pop pop of skirmish musket fire could be heard as pickets exchanged compliments to one another, only the firing started to become more insistent and officers and soldiers alike would look up from their idle conversation towards the distant shots.

General Lapisse's voltigeur screen probes ahead feeling out the British position
Colonel Jean Pierre Dellard was very proud of his regiment. The 16me Legere carried the battle honours of Jena 1806, Eylau 1807 and Friedland 1807 on their Colour and were eager to lead the attack on the English. To them, had been given the honour to spearhead the assault towards the position where the enemy line was expected to be and his men braced themselves for the first contact with the enemy.

Donkin's Light Battalion, should have been on picket duty but were lazing in the sun with the rest of the brigade
Surely they should have met the English picket line by now, he thought. Perhaps we have misjudged our enemy and he has departed unobserved, ah no matter, en avant.

Mackenzie's Light Battalion, doing their job, patrolling to the front
Suddenly a shout of alarm from the trees up ahead and a rapid exchange of musketry announced the two lines had found each other. The 87th Foot were at ease, spread around on the ground when the alarm was raised, with men jumping up to grab their arms. Turning round in the direction of the French positions, the first of them crumpled and fell back to the ground as the first shots from French voltigeurs flew through their little glade amongst the trees.

Stand to, stand to !! In a matter of minutes about half their number had gathered around the Colours, forming a two rank line, facing the tree line where the voltigeurs fired and calmly reloaded one after the other.

Those blinds behind the voltigeurs are the three battalions of the 16me Legere, with a dummy blind in the mix
The "light bobs" of Colonel Donkin's brigade were the first to respond to the call of alarm. The small unit was quick to form up into open order and with a skirmish line ahead moved down the road from the Casa to be met by a column of legere probing towards the building. They opened fire, deliberately searching out the officers and ncos, as the French battalion started to deploy into line.

First contact as the voltigeurs attack the 87th Foot, Donkin's Light Battalions move out in open order
Meanwhile the alarm had spread along the battalions of Donkin's brigade with the 88th Foot falling into line with their Irish brothers in the 87th. They faced a similar formation of French Legere battalions deploying from the tree line ahead. The two battalions should have been deploying over a thousand men to face the threat but, due to their surprise and dispersion when the attack occurred, barely mustered half that number. Just as the order was given to "present arms" Brigadier General (Colonel) Donkin rode up and joined the line of the 87th calling out words of encouragement to steady his new battalion.

The 16me Legere move in to attack the Irish battalions, the 88th and 87th Foot, with Brigadier General Donkin attached
Given the limited visibility among the trees, the two lines found themselves facing each other at 75 paces, just over 50 yards. Even with reduced numbers in the British ranks, the volley fire at this range was bound to be telling. However Colonel Dellard was brimming with confidence as his two battalions outnumbered the redcoats by two to one.

The orders to fire, were simultaneous, and the two ranks, being so close in amongst the trees were immediately enveloped in white clouds of acrid smoke.

The French force press towards the Casa
Sir Arthur Wellesley was leaning on the ledge of one of the arched windows atop the tower in one corner of the Casa de Salinas stable yard, and had noticed a light rain had started to fall, thinking this might mean a storm tonight. Whilst considering the implications on the ground conditions for what he knew was an inevitable clash the next day, his attention was drawn to a unit of British light infantry forming up in open order and heading off into the woods along the road.

Suddenly he heard the volley fire erupt to his left and turned his glass to see what the commotion was about. "Damn me and damn Mackenzie, we've been humbugged! Stewart get to the horses we're under attack!"

The first volley from the Irish caused the 16me Legere to fall back shocked by the British musketry
The two battalions of the 16me Legere were a mess, with the smoke gradually clearing to reveal their front rank a line of dead and dying soldiers and with the remainder pushing their way back through the ranks behind. Those officers and sergeants still standing were vainly trying to physically push their men into line and face the enemy, but to no avail as the French men sought the sanctuary of the trees behind.

The 45me Ligne attempt to keep the pressure on Donkin's men. Colonel Donkin is seriously wounded in the firefight.
With the first attack held and repulsed, the British line came alive with shouts and activity as men became aware of the urgency, quickly grabbing up their weapons and seeking their place in the lines.

General de Division Pierre Belon Lapisse was desperate to know the progress of his attack. These trees they were moving through were a mixed blessing, he thought. On the one hand they gave excellent cover to mask their approach and gain surprise, but, on the other, they made it very difficult for him to command his division as a whole.

Riding through the columns of his supporting battalions he sought out General de Brigade Laplannes, arriving just in time to see the retreat of the 16me Legere. Realising the need to get his men forward as quickly as possible and regain the initiative, he sent his ADC to command Colonel Barrie, to bring forward the 45me Ligne and lead the attack on the British line up ahead.

Mackenzie's light bobs add their fire on the French
Meanwhile the men of the Fifth Battalion, 60th Rifles, had formed up and positioned their remaining four companies, just over 200 men, on the right flank of the 87th Foot. Like their other five companies, the fifth company had been detached to skirmish and joined Donkin's Light Battalion.

The thin red line holds steady
Colonel Barrie, despite his orders, was unwilling to have his men dispatched as their colleagues in the Legere had been and so held back as he allowed the voltiguer battalion to go about its work sniping the British line from the cover of the trees.

Colonel Donkin realised that he had to push the French reserve back to give his men space to pull back and break contact. The order was given to charge and the 87th Foot swept forward catching the rearward men of the voltigeur line as they attempted to hold their ground.

The effect was two fold, the voltigeur battalion was completely shocked by the sudden charge and fell back, but in getting caught had impeded the 87th Foot leaving them facing off with the 3/45me Ligne. Worst still Colonel Donkin was seriously wounded in the attack and had to be carried back behind the line.

With the 88th Foot held back as a reserve, the 60th Rifles unleashed a volley on the 3/45me Ligne, only to receive a more devastating volley back dropping half their number and causing the remainder to retreat.

The retirement begins and it nearly goes wrong
The British resistance had its effect with the 45me Ligne reluctant to press matters and with the 16me Legere refusing to advance.

General Lapisse was forced to change his attack plans and called forward the lead elements of General de Brigade Solignac's battalions.

The 8me Ligne get a successful charge in on the rear of the 87th in column, note the blue charge marker. The 88th turn to face
It is often said that to retreat in the face of the enemy is one of the hardest manoeuvres to pull off successfully, and with their leader down, seriously wounded, the men of Donkin's Brigade nearly paid the price for their inexperience.

Looking to take advantage of the lull caused to the French attack and commence their withdrawal, the 87th and 88th foot both formed column and proceeded to turn away from what they thought was a disrupted French line.

Unfortunately for the British Brigade Major Collins who had just replaced the fallen Colonel Donkin and given the order to fall back, was that he hadn't realised the French Ligne regiment moving forward was the 8me Ligne from a different French brigade.

Donkin's Brigade Major attempts to rally a shaken 87th Foot as Wellesley does the same for the 60th Rifles
The battle was in the balance with casualties so far, very slightly favouring the British rearguard.

General Solignac rode up to the 489 men of the 1/8me Ligne and called on them to charge the rear of the retiring British column, to which they replied "Non merci". The British command looked on with a sense of relief as the French line, surrounded by dead and dying comrades, refused to charge. However they were not out of danger even then, as the 87th needed at least one more march to get clear of the French line, and the 88th were forced to about face and form line to cover the retreat.

At that moment Sir Arthur Wellesley rode in among the ranks of Donkin's brigade. He quickly issued orders to Major General Mackenzie to get his first brigade clear and on the road to Talavera. Then, heading towards the 5/60th Rifles, he passed the young captain commanding Donkin's Light Battalion instructing him to fall back on the brigade covering their withdrawal.

The men of the 5/60th were disordered and halted when Sir Arthur rode up and called out to them, reminding them of their position as one of the finest regiments in the British army, they quickly reformed and march towards Anson's light cavalry brigade covering the open ground beyond.

Donkin's Light Battalion cover the brigade as it finally breaks contact
There but remained just one more roll of the dice to decide the outcome of the battle. General Solignac pleaded the honour of the 8me Ligne and demanded an immediate charge to be made on the retiring British column.

The French troops halfheartedly complied with the order and only a few companies charged forward to contact the rear ranks of the 87th Foot. The redcoats turned to defend themselves, but the feeble attack only increased the pace of the retirement without breaking the order of the column, whilst gaining little ground for the French troops.

Whilst Major Collins held the 87th together and halted them to dress the ranks, the British line had gained a march on the French pursuit and were making their way into the open ground and the succour of Anson's light cavalry, thus ending the engagement at 16.30

Sir Arthur Wellesley had managed to pull off a minor victory and salvage the terrible position his men's inexperience had put him in. The analysis of this action would have to wait as a major battle loomed on the morrow, but it was clear that his soldiers were still very much learning their jobs and over 200 men had paid the price for the lesson administered by General Lapisse's Division.

Army Sir Arthur Wellesley
[ 501] Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley - Active A [1500 paces]

Division Sir Alexander Mackenzie - Defend
[ 502] Major General Sir Alexander Mackenzie - Active C+ [800 paces]
[ 501] 2/24th Foot (Warwickshire) 0/ 708 C [sk] Good Tiring
[ 502] 2/31st Foot (Huntingdonshire) 0/ 660 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 503] 1/45th Foot (Nottinghamshire) 0/ 680 C+ [sk] Good Fresh
[ 504] Mackenzie's Bde. Light Bttn. 7/ 221 C [sk] Average Acceptable

Brigade Sir Rufane Shaw Donkin - Defend [No Advance]
[ 503] Brigadier General Sir Rufane Shaw Donkin - Severely wounded B [450 paces]
[ 505] 2/87th (P of Wales Own Irish) 76/ 463 C [sk] Good Tired
[ 506] 1/88th (Connaught Rangers) 30/ 509 C [sk] Poor Acceptable
[ 507] 5/60th (Rifles) 101/ 119 B [sk] Good Acceptable
[ 508] Donkins Bde. Light Battalion 8/ 167 C [sk] Average Tiring

Brigade George Anson - Defend
[ 504] Brigadier General George Anson - Active C+ [400 paces]
[ 509] 23rd Light Dragoons 0/ 459 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 510] 1st KGL Light Dragoons 0/ 451 C+ [sk] Good Fresh

222/ 3527 Bayonets
0/ 910 Sabres
222/ 4437 Total of all arms
10 Standards present
Division Pierre- Bellon Lapisse - Attack
[ 101] General de Division Pierre- Bellon Lapisse - Active C- [725 paces]
[ 115] 2/3me Artillerie a Cheval 0/ 155 [ 6] C Good Fresh

Brigade Solignac - Attack
[ 102] General de Brigade Solignac - Active C [350 paces]
[ 101] 1/8me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 489 C [sk] Good Tired
[ 102] 2/8me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 460 C [sk] Average Fresh
[W] [ 103] 3/8me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 462 C- [sk] Average Exhausted
[ 104] 1/54me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 498 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 105] 2/54me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 457 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 106] 3/54me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 497 C- [sk] Good Acceptable
[ 107] Solignac's Voltigeurs 10/ 559 C [sk] Average Tired

Brigade Laplannes - Attack
[ 103] General de Brigade Laplannes - Active C- [350 paces]
[ 108] 1/16me Regiment de Legere 86/ 408 C [sk] Poor Fresh
[ 109] 2/16me Regiment de Legere 75/ 387 C [sk] Poor Fresh
[D] [ 110] 3/16me Regiment de Legere 69/ 418 C- [sk] Broken Tired
[ 111] 1/45me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 454 C [sk] Average Fresh
[ 112] 2/45me Regiment de Ligne 23/ 475 C [sk] Average Acceptable
[ 113] 3/45me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 482 C- [sk] Good Tiring
[ 114] Laplannes Voltigeurs 38/ 526 C [sk] Average Acceptable

301/ 6572 Bayonets
0/ 155 Artillerists
0/ 6 Cannon
301/ 6727 Total of all arms
4 Standards present
Minor victory for the British Army
As of Game Turn: 14

The British Army has suffered losses of:
[ 4%] 222 men of all arms
incl.[ 0%] 10 prisoners of all arms
[ 5%] 222 bayonets
[ 0%] 0 sabres

Honours: [ 505] 2/87th (P of Wales Own Irish)
Losses include 1 General[s]:
[ 503] Sir Rufane Shaw Donkin - Severely wounded

The French Army has suffered losses of:
[ 10%] 719 men of all arms
incl.[ 0%] 52 prisoners of all arms
[ 10%] 719 bayonets
[ 0%] 0 artillerists

Honours: [ 107] Solignac's Voltigeurs

This was a great little scenario to start the Talavera campaign off. The 87th and 88th Foot, contacted in the first attack, produced a devastating volley for their numbers which seemed to knock the stuffing out of the French.

From that moment on the French were playing catch up on a situation that started with them in the driving seat. The hold up in the attack drew away French follow up forces towards it, thus leaving Wellesley and Mackenzie's brigade free to respond by riding to take command and pulling back respectively.

The inexperience among British ranks was perfectly modelled by having myself in command of the British in my first game playing C&G. I made a cardinal error in putting both Irish battalions into column and trying to break contact instead of protecting the 87th column by keeping the 88th in line to prevent the French charge that followed my mistake. I got lucky in that the 8me Ligne were reluctant to put in a committed charge and with Wellesley close by I was able to quickly regain control of my shaken units and bring them away under command.

Tom enjoyed his time on the computer issuing forth with appropriate noises as he observed the damage inflicted by our units various actions, at one stage telling his Dad to go away from the screen and getting to much information.

The blinds and dice mechanisms used to work out British responses seemed to work well and I have changed some of the response times based on how we played it in the game. Future plays will confirm the approach adopted. These variables together with different battle plans will give this scenario added replay-ability.

The reduced table size also seemed to fit well and I came away thinking that a four by four table layout would work, as once the British fall back over the small stream into open ground, the French follow up will slow due to Anson's light cavalry thus allowing the British to break contact and a natural game ending event.

We played for three hours 7.30pm to 10.30pm getting in 14 turns of play and getting what seemed a very representative result if somewhat reversed in favour of the British.

Thanks to Steve and Tom for great evenings entertainment and a game to remember.


  1. Gripping stuff indeed.
    Great to see a small Napoleonic action for a change, also interesting to fight it amongst such tight terrain. Always keen to see more of your stuff.
    Be cool, Jeremy

    1. Hey thanks Jeremy, glad you enjoyed it. We all came away with lots of ideas to fight the game differently and I know Tom is keen to take the French "for a drive".

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  3. That was an exciting and well-told battle report. Damn 8th ligne! They had their chance!
    Very handsome layout too.

    1. Thanks Jonathan. Yes it was "a close run thing". If the French battalion had charged in at the end, the casualty bill would have swung back and probably tipped the result the other way.

  4. Most impressive pictures of a great looking this terrain!

    1. Thanks Phil. I was particularly pleased with the new look trees. They were a mess after the Oporto games and really needed sorting out.

  5. This was a terrific AAR, beautiful pictures and thoughtful evocative writing to match. One of the better bat reps I've seen. I quite enjoyed it, bravo.

    1. Thank you Michael, much appreciated. I should say that one of the joys of using C&G is that the game throws out bits of chrome during play, such as Donkin's wounding and a light rain falling in the third or fourth turn, which really makes it fun to include in the AAR. I like to imagine Sir Charles Oman watching the game and scribbling notes during the play.

  6. Outstanding batrep Sir! Love the use of the blinds in particular. Not a fan of computer moderation myself, but you guys had fun!

    1. Thanks Sparker, glad you enjoyed the game. Yes one man's rule set can be another man's poison. What I hope we demonstrate is that the rules are modelled to allow us to concentrate on our playing the period rather than working out how to get the rules to give us our best result, or as Mr Richard Clarke would say "playing the period not the rules".

      What I aim to do with these scenarios is to make sure they are easily convertable to whatever rule set you chose to use, hence the generic use of unit grades A B or C class, numbers of men, and pace scaling. These are standard terms in C&G but should also work with other rule sets if preferred.

      Oh and I nearly forgot, you're right, they're great fun.

  7. Very impressive figures, and a lovely landscape! :D

    1. Hi RMN and welcome to the blog. Thank you, glad you enjoyed it.

  8. Jonathan, we are going to play this scenario using your OOBs you posted next weekend. We always copy your games. 2 questions: 1. Did you limit movement from 300 yards in line to 150 due to the trees except when on the roads? 2. Would / did you give the units the benefit of light cover since they are fighting in the trees mainly? Thanks. Adam

    1. Hi Adam, we fought the woods as woods, so half movement with crossing difficult terrain fatigue effects, visibility 75 paces. We kept the French in columns deploying into line when the Voltigeurs bumped the British line. For the road we allowed full movement but penalised for difficult terrain on the basis that troops on the road would have had command difficulty keeping in contact with units operating in the woods , but that is up to you and I intend to play test this idea further, along with some other rule ideas.
      Have a good game.

    2. Thanks JJ. We appreciate the input. All your games are a blast to replicate.

    3. Thanks Adam, much appreciated.

  9. Finally had time to read through this. Great AAR, very dramatic descriptions with loads of colour commentary. And the table, of course, looked beautiful.

    1. Thanks Bill, I was really excited about playing this game after all the research and constructing of various units. The scenario and the system make putting the report together after, all part of the fun, so I'm really pleased that people have enjoyed reading it, as we all certainly enjoyed playing it.

  10. Great battle report JJ - will definitely play this with GdB. Your figures and terrain are most inspirational mate!

    1. Hey Carlo, thank you, glad you enjoyed the read. Lots of Talavera related stuff to come.