|The 16me Legere fight their way forward at Casa de Salinas|
Before describing the game, I thought it might be helpful to summaries some of the "givens" in this scenario that need to be modelled to give it any semblance to the historical clash.
First, the British 3rd Division of two infantry brigades supported by a light cavalry brigade are halted at the Casa de Salinas road junction acting as a road block to the first elements of King Joseph's French army. The men in the battalions are lazing at ease on the ground, unaware that their brigade light battalion pickets have not been posted properly and those that are forward are too few and not enough to secure the front. Therefore the British, on "defend" orders, are not moving until forced to by French action, when they will retire gradually into the open terrain supported by their cavalry as they fall back on the Talavera position.
|The French position at the end of four turns of advancing through the thick undergrowth. Note only Mackenzie's "light bobs" are forward, top right in the picture|
The surprise of the attack finds the British disorganised and unable to fire off their "trademark" volley fire before several battalions have been broken in disorder leaving two to three less affected battalions to take up the fight and slow the French advance, before falling back themselves.
The British, therefore, will withdrawal, due to pressure on their position, the challenge of the scenario is in what condition they will be in when that withdrawal has finished.
Finally, the close nature of the wooded terrain around the Casa means that movement is halved and visibility is reduced to 75 paces, just short of 60 yards, so all musketry and spotting will occur very close up and personal. The terrain is ideal for skirmishers.
|Both French brigades are preceded by their voltigeur battalions. All troops are in open order.|
In addition, the first volleys, delivered by British infantry, were ineffective in stopping the French attacks and we model that by randomising down the amount of fire they are able to use.
Moving through the close woods around the Casa would normally be fatiguing to formed infantry and clearly had little or no effect on the French in the actual battle. Veteran French infantry, line and light, were at this period quite capable of operating in open order, so to avoid the fatigue effects in the four moves to contact, when we had our battalions form line, the French advance in open order. The preceding pictures show the bases slightly separated to indicate this.
|The voltigeur battalion of General Laplanne, seen behind is closely supported by the spearhead unit, the 16eme Legere on blinds.|
The picture below shows the skirmish attack well under way with British officers and nco's being picked off by the French skirmishers making use of the cover provided by the tress, whilst the British infantry reply with poor musket volleys attempting to drive the voltigeurs off. Meanwhile the French blinds beyond show the 16me Legere getting into position preparing to advance through the voltigeurs, fire a volley and charge the British line.
|Donkin directs his brigade as the 2/87th take on the French skirmishers|
There are no other British Generals to aid Donkin, as his boss, General Mackenzie, is busy with his own brigade as well as being divisional CO and Wellesley has only just become aware of the firing to his left whilst searching for the French on his right.
The French left presents a different problem. Eager to stop the British brigade on this flank simply retiring unhindered or moving to support Donkin's brigade, French troops under General Solignac have moved into the woods on this side of the road to pin these units.
General Mackenzie's "light bobs" are doing their job and contesting the advance of the French voltigeurs, whilst protecting their brigade from sniping. Note Solignac's follow up line battalions are in open order.
Up to this stage, the new French tactics were working like a dream. and then I, as French commander, got carried away. The picture below shows the table, when I made my mistake. Top centre, shows the French legere and voltigeurs have driven off Donkin's two line battalions in disarray, following a volley and charge by the legere. Only Donkin's light battalion and the 60th Rifles are in good order and able to cover the brigades retreat.
Nearest to camera shows my error in trying to force the issue with Mackenzie's brigade by advancing through his light battalion to get at the line infantry behind. The British are now aware they are under attack and are able to fire very effectively. Because their light troops have kept my voltigeurs busy, I have not been able to soften up the British line infantry prior to my line infantry forming up and advancing on them. Thus, as the 2/8me and 2/45me form line and advance through the voltigeurs forcing Mackenzie's light infantry to retire to the right of the British line, the two French battalions are decimated by volley fire from the 2/24th and 2/31st, causing them to rout back into the woods and stopping my attack. The two routing French line can be seen facing away nearest the French table edge, right of picture.
|The French attack nearest to camera is stopped, just as the French break through, centre top of picture|
|General Laplanne has broken through with the 16me Legere. Wellesley is busy rallying the 1/88th, whilst the 2/87th with Donkin are in full retreat.|
|Wellesley gets the 1/88th under control as the 60th Rifles cover the retreat of Mackenzie's brigade|
|General Laplanne and his victorious but very tired brigade. The line of fallen mark the area of heaviest fighting|
|The 2/87th retreat shaken with General Donkin close at hand|
The game presents management challenges for both commanders. The likelihood is is that the British will end up firefighting on one of their flanks, depending on where their skirmish line sets up. Provided the French attack areas (unlike in my example) selectively and keep their force in being in others, they should be able to force a positive result. The French approach in open order and the better reduction in British volley fire proved decisive in getting the scenario closer to the historical outcome, and it was pleasing to see those adjustments have the effect intended. I have a few further "tweaks" in mind for future replays, but am happy with my notes from last night's game to move on to the "Night Attack" scenario.
|Anson brings forward the cavalry. These should have been targets for French horse gunners|
The result would have been quite different if the French had contented themselves with taking potshots at Mackenzie's men from the safety of cover as they were manoeuvred back down the road. Instead the 400 casualties suffered in the French attack swung the result back to a minor victory for the British. At best, at least a proportion of the 553 French missing will reappear once a search of the woods are made by French light cavalry!
|The last desultory firing as the French attack falters.|
[W] denotes No Advance
[R] denotes Halt or Retire
As of Game Turn: 10
French Division Pierre- Bellon Lapisse - Attack
[ 108] General de Division Pierre- Bellon Lapisse - Active C- [725 paces]
[ 102] 2/6me Artillerie a Cheval 0/ 156 [ 6] B- Ex'lent Fresh
Brigade Jean Bartholomew R Laplanne - Attack
[ 109] General de Brigade Jean Bartholomew R Laplanne - Active C [350 paces]
[ 111] 1/16me Regiment de Legere 17/ 572 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 112] 2/16me Regiment de Legere 35/ 563 C [sk] Average Tired
[ 113] 3/16me Regiment de Legere 29/ 441 C- [sk] Ex'lent Tired
[ 114] 1/45me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 455 C [sk] Good Fresh
[D] [ 115] 2/45me Regiment de Ligne 196/ 286 C [sk] Broken Tired
[ 116] 3/45me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 459 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[ 117] Laplanne's Voltigeur Bn. 3/ 566 C [sk] Good Fresh
Brigade Jean Baptiste Solignac - Attack
[ 110] General de Brigade Jean Baptiste Solignac - Active C- [350 paces]
[W] [ 104] 1/8me Regiment de Ligne 16/ 480 C [sk] Good Tiring
[D] [ 105] 2/8me Regiment de Ligne 204/ 267 C [sk] Broken Tiring
[ 106] 3/8me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 460 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[ 107] 1/54me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 474 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 108] 2/54me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 486 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 109] 3/54me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 489 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[ 110] Solignac's Voltigeur Bn. 12/ 569 C [sk] Average Tired
512/ 6567 Bayonets
0/ 156 Artillerists
0/ 6 Cannon
512/ 6723 Total of all arms
4 Standards present
British Army - Sir Arthur Wellesley
[ 501] Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley - Active A [1500 paces]
Brigade George Anson - Defend
[ 506] Brigadier General George Anson - Active B- [400 paces]
[ 509] 23rd Light Dragoons A 0/ 229 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 510] 23rd Light Dragoons B 0/ 224 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 511] 1st Light Dragoons KGL A 0/ 220 C+ [sk] Good Fresh
[ 512] 1st Light Dragoons KGL B 0/ 228 C+ [sk] Good Fresh
Division Alexander Randoll Mackenzie - Defend
[ 515] Major General Alexander Randoll Mackenzie - Active C [800 paces]
[ 533] 2/24th Foot 26/ 682 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 534] 2/31st Foot 21/ 639 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 535] 1/45th Foot 0/ 680 C+ [sk] Ex'lent Fresh
[R] [ 536] Mackenzie's Bde. Light Bn. 42/ 186 C [sk] Average Exhausted
Brigade Rufane Donkin - Defend [No Advance]
[ 516] Colonel Rufane Donkin - Active B- [350 paces]
[R] [ 537] 2/87th Foot 96/ 443 C [sk] Poor Exhausted
[ 538] 1/88th Foot 47/ 492 C+ [sk] Poor Tiring
[ 539] 5/60th Rifles 9/ 211 B- [sk] Good Acceptable
[ 540] Donkin's Bde. Light Bn. 16/ 159 C+ [sk] Good Acceptable
257/ 3492 Bayonets
0/ 901 Sabres
257/ 4393 Total of all arms
10 Standards present
Minor victory for the British Army
As of Game Turn: 10
The British Army has suffered losses of:
[ 5%] 257 men of all arms
[ 5%] 244 dead and wounded
[ 0%] 13 prisoners
[ 6%] 257 bayonets
[ 0%] 0 sabres
Honours: [ 537] 2/87th Foot
The French Army has suffered losses of:
[ 14%] 1065 men of all arms
[ 5%] 434 dead and wounded
[ 7%] 553 missing
[ 1%] 78 prisoners
[ 15%] 1065 bayonets
[ 0%] 0 artillerists
Honours: [ 113] 3/16me Regiment de Legere
Thanks to Tom for being the British guinea pig on this test and for bringing all his skill and guile to bear in snatching victory from defeat. His Dad is very grateful for the lesson that was administered.
Next up, the Badajoz Militia