Tuesday, 9 June 2015

2/24e Regiment de Ligne

In the first post on this regiment, looking at the first battalion, I covered off the early history of the regiment, its war record leading up to the Peninsular War, its commanding officers and regimental peculiarities.

1/24e Regiment de Ligne

So with the second battalion, I thought it might be interesting to look at the regiment's involvement in the Peninsular War leading up to Talavera in July 1809.

The first involvement of the 24e Regiment in the Peninsular War was in July to August 1808 when as part of a "hotch potch" of units assembled under General Reille at Perpignan, it had elements as part of the 1st Provisional Battalion. Napoleon ordered that a division of about 8,000 men should provide support to French forces desperately trying to get control of Catalonia in the area around Girona, Barcelona and Figueras and appointed his former ADC General Reille to lead the expedition.

General Reille plunged into the conflict on July 6th 1808 when leading just two regiments he raised the siege of the single French battalion holding Figueras on the 6th. By the 11th of July with continuous reinforcements coming through he had gathered about 3,500 men  and decided to attack the fishing village of Roses. He was however soon regretting this idea as he found himself cut off from his communications with France by about 5,000 somatenes, a Catalan militia force under Captain Don Juan Carlos, supported by Royal Marines from HMS Montague. In the retreat back to Perpignan he lost about 200 men and had gained the realisation that Catalonia would be a hard nut to crack.

French forces sent to Spain
in June, July and August l808 - Source, Oman
Division: General de division Reille
lst Provisional Battalion ((560)
(lst, 5th, 24th, and 62nd Line)
(l6th and 22nd Legere)

Following the defeat at Baylen in July 1808, French forces in Spain fell back behind the Ebro and regrouped around Vittoria awaiting the arrival of a furious Emperor, ready to take to the field with the full might of the Grande Armee including elements of the Imperial Guard.

Thus we find the 24e Regiment de Ligne as part of that invasion force under Marshal Victor as part of General Ruffin's 1st Division, as it would remain up to and including Talavera in 1809.

Napoleon's plan was simple and contemptuous of the Spanish in that he aimed to break through the centre of the Spanish line of armies under Blake, Castanos and Palafox, and then enveloping left and right destroy the three army groups whilst pressing on into the country to take Madrid.

With General Lefebvre's IV corps detailed to hold Blake's army to its front, Victor's I corps later supported by Soult's II corps would move via Vittoria and cut up to the coastal area between Santander and Bilbao trapping Blake and his 40,000 Army of the Left and destroying it.

Blake's army was soon forced to retire under pressure from Lefebvre and was caught by Victor's corps in the Cantabrian Mountains when the Spanish General drew up his 23,000 men and six 4lbr guns on the hills in front of Espinosa de los Monteros. With a significant corps of  disciplined regulars from General La Romana's Division of the North, previously repatriated to Spain by the Royal Navy, the Spanish put up a stiff fight taking the battle into a second day. On the second day Victor changed tack from the previous frontal assault, by using Ruffin's and Villatte's divisions to hold the Spanish right and centre whilst Lapisse used the cover of dead ground to advance on and break the raw Asturian division on the Spanish left causing the Spanish to collapse as they sought to fall back through the town and get across the River Trueba.

Casualties were relatively light, 1,200 French vs 3,000 Spanish, but when Blake rallied the survivors at Reynosa, only 12,000 men were under arms, the balance having scattered in the hills.

Battle of Espinosa de los Monteros

French Army in Spain
15 November 1808 - Source, Oman
I Corps: Maréchal Victor
1st Division: Général de division Ruffin
Brigade: Général de brigade Labruyere
9th Légère Regiment (3)(57/1,558)
24th Line Regiment (3)(56/2,046)
Brigade: Général de brigade Barrois
96th Line Regiment (4)(64/1,818)
6/1st Foot Artillery
7/1st Foot Artillery
8th Artillery Artisan Company

By the end of November it was clear that Napoleon's plan to destroy the Spanish armies had failed in that although badly battered by the French offensive and in retreat they were far from destroyed. The Emperor then decided to press on with the second part of the plan to capture Madrid, rationalising that once the capital was taken, the Spanish population would concede defeat.

Thus the next occasion we find the 24e Ligne in action is with the Emperor's force on the 30th November 1808 at the Battle of Somosierra on the advance to Madrid. Napoleon encountered General San Juan's army holding the Somosierra Pass with 9,000 men and 16 guns holding the crest of the road passing over the Guadarramas, the last principle obstacle separating the French from the Spanish capital. Having failed to break through on the 29th with a detachment of the Imperial Guard, Napoleon ordered General Ruffin to advance on the head of the pass early the next morning then, deciding to press the assault, ordered the Polish Light Horse squadrons to charge the guns covering the road. The first attack failed with the loss of about eighty of the cavalry, but succeeded when a coordinated attack was made with the cavalry supported by Ruffin's infantry (the 9e Legere and 24e Ligne) clearing the neighbouring hillsides, whilst the 96e Ligne supported the cavalry along the road.

Interestingly the 24e Ligne operating on the French left had to battle their way forward against an enemy that would oppose them and their compatriots several times including at Talavera, namely the Badajoz Regiment detailed to hold the hillside on the Spanish right.

1st battalion Badajoz Volunteer Line Regiment

French I Corps
15 December l808 - Source, Balagny, Campagne de l'Empereur Napoléon en Espagne (l808-l809)
lst Division: Général de division Ruffin
lst Brigade: Général de brigade Lefol
9th Légère Infantry Regiment (62/l,527)
24th Line Infantry Regiment (6l/l,852)

Marshal Victor and I corps were destined to remain in and around Madrid going into 1809 protecting the capital from the attentions of General Cuesta and the Army of Estremadura and seeking to destroy the Spanish army as part of its ultimate mission to support Marshal Soult's invasion of Portugal, by pushing into the country from the east.

French Army in Spain - Source, Oman
1 February 1809
I Corps: Maréchal Victor
1st Division: Général de division Ruffin (5,429)
9th Légère Regiment (3)
24th Line Regiment (3)

96th Line Regiment (3)

The two armies met on the River Guadianna at Medellin on the 28th March 1809 with Cuesta's force pushing forward as the French cavalry flanks gave ground bringing them closer to the French infantry under Villatte in the centre. Eventually the French cavalry overcame their Spanish counterparts and swooped in on the flanks of the now exposed Spanish infantry.

Battle of Medellin

The 24e Ligne was not engaged in the battle as, with the rest of Ruffin's division, they were held in reserve throughout.

Thus we find the 24e Ligne at Talavera in July of 1809 still part of General Ruffin's division in his first brigade possibly commanded by General de Brigade (Colonel) Meunier of the 9e Legere.

French at Talavera - Source, Oman
28 July 1809
1st Corps: Maréchal Victor
1st Division: Général de division Ruffin (5,286)
9th Légère Regiment (3)
24th Line Regiment (3)
Brigade: Général de brigade Barrois
96th Line Regiment (3)

As with the first battalion the second is composed of figures from the AB range, this time with the second battalion really showing off, having their chords up and shako covers off (second to none). The fanion is speculative as this is from GMB's 1815 French fanions, but it looked so nice I couldn't resist using them for my 1809 battalions. Some second battalions may still have carried Eagles in 1809, but my battalions will be appearing in scenarios set for later periods so I have settled for just having Eagles with my first battalions.

Next up WWII vehicle rally in North Devon


  1. Beautiful painting and a terrific write-up.

    1. Hi Giles, thank you for your comment, glad you enjoyed the post

  2. Johnny Rosbif has left a new comment on your post "2/24e Regiment de Ligne":

    I admire your tenacity in completing a project down to the regimental history! Lovely work again, JJ.

    Hi JR
    Apologies, sometimes my stumpy figures are not that accurate on the Ipad and I deleted your comment by accident.

    Thanks for your comment, much appreciated. The big thing about blogging this project is having you guys keeping me honest and on track. I know from the comments I've had that a lot of people, including myself, are looking forward to the end result and the regimental histories is a very important part of just enjoying that journey. I like to think that as most of the casualties in this long war have no known graves, that in a small way the blog can pay tribute to all the armies involved.


  3. Superb paint job and background, as always Jonathan!

  4. Excellent painting and regiment bio. Perhaps, collecting all of your regimental biographies along with your photos into a PDF would make an interesting and useful Guide to the Peninsular War in miniature? I for one would be interested. Including your outstanding battle replays would be icing on the cake!

    1. Thank you Jon.
      That's an interesting idea, great minds think alike.
      I am working on a project to produce a "scenario/guide" for the Talavera campaign as a way of testing the water for such a product and for future such guides if people are keen.
      The work is running in tandem with the current project so I hope to have something to release at the end. In the meantime the blog will is there to give a flavour of what to expect.

  5. Top work Jonathan thanks for posting I can't see how you find the time to paint and research for the project . I will continue to paint along with my peninsula war British to your blog, not as fast as you ! I might even have a division by the end of the year .
    Regards Furphy .b

    1. Hi Furphy, thank you.
      I work on my collection in a very methodical way and am able now to judge what I need to do to get what I need done in a certain time. The article in the latest Wargame Bloggers Quarterly really summarises my methods.

      However I am really pleased to hear that you are making progress with your own collection and in the end, that is what matters. I would recommend working to your plan based on your own time commitments. The key is developing the habit of seeing your plan through and I like to draw inspiration from other peoples work as well.

  6. That standard bearer is striking a daring pose, hope you never draw blood on that spike - looks lethal! Also love the grenadier hoisting his shako up on his bayonet - nice touches.
    Naturally all well executed too, bravo Monsieur!

    1. Hi Jeremy, Yeah I was using one of those 50mm spears designed for 28mm ancients and they are sharp. The personality figures that AB do are great and I have few to sprinkle through the 24 battalions, which when they are all out should give the eye plenty of extra candy.

  7. Excellent write up. I like the concept of the blog paying tribute to these armies and soldiers. I couldn't agree more. 1st class work.

    1. Hi Adam.
      Thank you.

      I am taking the family over to Belgium at the end of this month to visit the four battlefields in the Waterloo campaign and to mark a very important bi-centenary that hopefully the boys will remember into their dotage. I went there in 1976 with my parents and it cemented my interest in an amazing period in history.

      With all the hype going on over a relatively short and very unique campaign it is easy to overlook that the seeds of victory on the field of Waterloo were sown on the plains of Spain and Portugal and it could be argued that it was the Peninsular War that doomed Napoleon's empire more than any of his other campaigns. Even the Russians in 1812 took the lesson from the retreat to the Lines of Torres Vedras in 1811 as the basis for their withdrawal plans in 1812 that put the first nail in the Empire's proverbial coffin. So I will be recalling my visit to Vimeiro and Rolica when I am looking out from the Lion mound and remembering that that was where the downfall started.

  8. Terrific work, and a great write-up. I spent several years chasing around for all the various volumes of Oman's work and am glad I did, as it really is one of the best references. Your writing style really brings it all to life.

    1. Oh, and I hope I haven’t inadvertently implied that Oman was the full extent of your research by the way Jonathan.

      I can’t help but agree with Jonathan Freitag’s comment that a PDF would be a great idea, especially as I seem to keep finding every excuse not to paint my mounting pile of French miniatures, and your posts will make my job much easier when I do finally get around to it.

    2. Hi Lawrence, thank you.
      The great Sir Charles Oman is required reading for everyone even slightly interested in the Peninsular War along with Fortescue for the British army. I am currently reading Charles Esdaile's history which has moved the story on by providing more insights into the Spanish and Portuguese contribution, but it is clear from reading his book and Gates, which I reviewed earlier this year, how much Oman still influences current thoughts about the war.

      Of course the prose Oman uses does show its age and some of his pronouncements on British tactics and Spanish capabilities have been shown to be suspect or utterly wrong, but the measure of his academic research into the armies and military facts of the war still stands as a foundation to more modern works.

      What I hope to do with my short little posts is to bring together his and other peoples work to make the models and the units they represent come to life in the imagination and give some background to the scenarios I am reporting.

      It is really great to hear that you like my interpretation of the story and the look of these units and I really appreciate the feedback.

      I have posted above a reply to Jonathan and as you will see I am working on such a product, but I intend it to be developed around the Talavera project initially with a view to looking at other Peninsular War campaigns as we progress. In the meantime I am more than happy to field questions on the work and hopefully the posts will build into a useful resource until I have scenario/guide put together.

    3. I enjoyed Esdaile's book, but must admit I preferred Gates's, possibly because like yourself I read that first. I am currently a little bogged down in Sir William Napier's account, and am glad I have read Esdaile and Gates beforehand to help keep a sense of overall perspective, especially as there is not a lot on what was happening with the Spanish elsewhere.

      Like yourself, I am fascinated with the Talavera campaign and am following your posts with keen interest. The group I game with replayed the battle in 15mm ourselves over a two-month period, on each Tuesday evening, the year before last. We use (from memory) a 10' by 5' table, and mapped everything out to the scale of the unit frontages we have adopted, which in the end meant that we had to confine ourselves to the action from the Sierra de Segurilla (which we nominated as passable to light troops in skirmish order only) down to the redoubt.

      This was probably not a bad compromise as that was where most of the action took place, and we allowed the entry of certain nominated units from the South, including the movement of the Spanish cavalry.

      The great thing about the game was that, after having read the books by Field and Edwards, it really helped bring the whole battle to life in a three-dimensional way as we were quite meticulous in the troop deployment and terrain layout. This to me was a slight revelation in that, although I have played quite a few historically-based games before and have always tried not to get carried beyond the fact that we are essentially playing with model soldiers, I believe I came away with a deeper sense of what actually went on. As the British commander we even made the same mistake of pushing the Guards across the Portina, only to have them beat another "hasty retreat".

      I apologise again if I am "banging-on" too much and promise to keep any further comments down to a sentence or two, but wanted to let you know how much I am thoroughly enjoying this build-up to the eventual game, and whether the British will fare better than under my command (although, to be fair, it was Victor's artillery that did us in).

    4. I love the way Napier writes, as he expresses himself in the words of the veterans, being one himself. However well done for getting stuck into his history as he does take a bit of reading. I think we should always be in Sir William's debt for highlighting what a terrible mess Beresford made of the Albuera campaign and his failings as a commander in the field, superb administrator that he was.

      Wow your Talavera project sounds just where I want to go. As you will have seen, my table encompasses the same area as yours and I too am a firm believer that the game can give remarkable insights into the battle we are trying to simulate always remembering that this is toy soldiers, and not the horror and destruction of actual warfare.

      Just with the two scenarios played so far, the difficulties both sides had in negotiating difficult terrain, poor visibility and recovering from surprise has really tested the players to come up with a response in the face of their forces struggling with these issues. It really has given me a huge insight to the descriptions give by Oman et al and a greater appreciation of the abilities of the commanders involved.

      Don't apologise for sharing the passion. I continually invite people to come on the blog to share thoughts and ideas about the history, the models, the rules, anything really that enables a discussion about something we obviously enjoy talking about and that we can't continuously bore the pants off with family and non wargaming friends. So I am very happy to contribute to a discussion.

      The game planning for the "Afternoon Attack" is in the formative stage at the moment as I am thinking about the modelling of various aspects in the game. C&G is very good at modelling artillery, especially with the fatigue effects. So I plan to test out some 30-45 minute bombardments on a British line lying down under fire to see the effect it has on the gunners and targets alike. It may force the French to work out a gunnery plan to allow their artillery to be available through out a given scenario by resting crews and keeping a reserve of guns, just like for real!

      Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts Lawrence and the next scenario coming up will be the "Dawn attack" once I have finished the 3/24e Ligne.