Thursday, 31 December 2015

Talavera - Attack on the Pajar de Vergara


The Attack on the Pajar Vergara is a battle within a battle that shouldn't have happened in the way it did. This was supposed to have been a holding action to pin the allied flank and potentially draw in reserves whilst a much larger powerful force punched through the British line in the centre.

To emphasise the support role of this attack the German Division under General Leval was supposed to advance after the main attack had gone in and thus, echeloned back, prevent the forces in this area going to the support of their hard pressed and soon to be beaten comrades in the centre. 

This plan was soon upset as Leval's men lost from sight in the enveloping olive groves became disorientated in terms of their position in relation to the other attacking formations and found themselves in the lead on the French flank as they left the cover of the trees and, thus committed, attacked first ahead of the main attack.

This account reveals the difficulty faced by any modern day General Laval trying to navigate their division through this difficult terrain that, whilst providing cover from artillery fire on the approach, causes fatigue and disruption to formed troops whilst crossing it.

For our New Year's Eve re-fight of this very interesting battle within a battle we have two veteran C&G commanders eager to pick up matters where they left off in the Dawn Attack scenario where Will snatched a hard fought victory for the French by forcing his division onto the summit of the Cerro de Medellin and driving Steve's British troops off their commanding position

                   
           Brigadier General Alexander Campbell        General de Division Baron Jean-Francois Leval
                               AKA Steve M                                                                AKA Will            
The map below illustrates the approximate set up of the various units and brigades with a six gun battery of British three pounder guns and a half battery of four Spanish twelve pounder guns occupying the half finished redoubt atop the small knoll called the Pajar de Vergara.

Pajar Vergara Scenario Map
The scenario is set up to reflect the attack conducted by General Leval in that his attack seemed to suggest that his main objective was to secure the Pajar position as a means of anchoring the flank of the French main attack to his right.

Thus if the German Division is able to take and secure the gun redoubt they would shift the C&G casualty result one victory level higher in their favour.

In addition if the French commander chose to include the Poles in his plan of attack it would shift the victory condition in favour of the allies to reflect the fact that the Poles were kept in reserve by Joseph throughout the day and were not intended to support this minor attack.

Finally if the German troops on first contact with the British chose, they could use subterfuge to get closer to their enemy by pretending to be Spanish troops lost in the olive groves. If the British fell for the ruse it would limit the fire they could issue in their first volley to simulate the confusion caused, The Nassau troops used this tactic to good effect in the actual battle.

As with the historical action we commenced our game at 14.00 as the French artillery along the line opened up a tremendous barrage that presaged their attack. Leval ordered his troops to advance en colonne serree, columns that would keep their companies closed up on the ones in front. This kept them easier to control and keep in order but more difficult to deploy should the need arise.

As you will see in the picture below our attack followed a similar profile with the Voltigeur battalions the first to exit the tree line to start the softening up process with their will directed skirmish fire.

Birds eye view of the German columns picking their way through the olives as they approach the allied line, with the first skirmish shots being exchanged
As the German skirmish lines began to work their way forward the next arrivals on the tree line were the three batteries of light artillery attached to the three infantry brigades. By using the two approach roads and by skirting the olive groves on the right flank the three batteries were able to ply artillery fire across the Anglo-Spanish line to thicken the fire from the Voltigeurs.

Baden gun limber, Nassau infantry, Dutch and Hesse Darmstadt skirmishers
are the first troops to get to the edge of the tree-line and open ground
With the bulk of the fire from the lead German units directed at harassing the allied gunners on the Pajar it was soon being answered with canister from the redoubt backed up by British and Spanish skirmish fire, the latter provided by the Antequeran Light Infantry on the Spanish left who were soon engaged in pot shotting gunners from the Hesse Darmstadt battery deployed on the road to their front.

The skirmish battle well under way
The bigger guns add their fire in support of the skirmishers as both sides try to soften each other up
As the allied artillery pours on the hurt, the infantry lines move forward to support the gunners
The German columns took a move or two in the shelter of the trees to shake off  their fatigue from crossing the olive groves and time to dress the ranks prior to advancing
The German skirmishers close the range prior to their supporting columns moving forward
The British move forward on the allied left in preparation  for the impending attack
The skirmishing and artillery fire lasted a good half hour before the German columns had had time to re-order and recover their fatigue following the difficult march through the olive trees.

Suddenly the skirmish lines moved forward to be joined by nine infantry column emerging from the tree line.

Two battalions from the Hesse Gross und Erbprinz Regiment and two from the Baden Regiment made directly for the redoubt screened by Grandjean's and Porbeck's Voltigeur battalions.

One effect of the preceding skirmishing had been to fatigue the allied gunners and whilst the twelve pounder canister fire was still a potent threat it became noticeably less so as the gunners fatigue levels rose with no respite from them labour in sight.

Suddenly the German columns breach the tree-line and head for the Pajar in force
As if recognising the looming threat to the redoubt, General Portago moved the second battalion of the Badajoz Regiment closer to the gun line, but then was drawn away to deal with the Antequeran Cazadors becoming shaken by fire from the Hesse gunners and the attention of the Franfurt battalion.

The shaky Spanish light infantry only held firm when joined by General Campbell himself who steadied them at the wall to their front and returned fire on the two German units to good effect.

The firing across both fronts reaches a crescendo as the two lines close
The British commander was wary of placing to much reliance on the Spanish holding firm and brought forward Brigadier Kemmis at the head of the 40th Foot and the 2nd Battalion of Detachments to form line on the Badajoz Regiment.

The Baden gunners supported by Nassau troops closest to camera attempt to pin the British as their comrades close on the Pajar
The climax of the action was approaching as Generals Grandjean, Porbeck and Leval attached themselves to the lead battalions and charged the redoubt, barely making it to the line of gabions as they were met by a weary discharge of canister.

The encouragement from the attached officers made the difference and three of the German battalions swept into the redoubt in hot pursuit of the gunners leaving from the back and also leaving most of their guns.

Generals Porbeck and Grandjean launch the Hesse and Baden infantry at the redoubt forcing the allied gunners to relinquish their defences and some of their guns as the German troops move onto the position to mop up. General Leval (118) can be seen at the centre of the attack
The distraction of the Antequeran Cazadores had caused two of the allied generals to be out of place when the attack struck, with only the second battalion of the Baden Regiment caused to pull up in the redoubt after the fire it received on the way in.

The German battalions keep the pressure on as they charge in over the redoubt striking the first of the Badajoz battalions.
The Baden battalion (162) is about to meet its nemesis in the form of HM 40th Foot to their front
The fighting was taking a toll on both armies as by 15.30 (turn 6) both army morale levels were at 86% and with failure deemed at 75% the next few moves would soon determine which would brake first. This distress became obvious as the first German brigade commander was advised his command was on a cautionary rating meaning that the fatigue was building fast.

The moment of crisis as the first Spanish battalions meet the onrushing German battalions
With both sides sensing that the tipping point was approaching for either force given one more significant blow, the opposing infantry prepared to charge and to open fire in one last attempt to wrest the initiative.

The three good order German battalions charged again with the two Hesse battalions taking on the lead Badajoz Infantry battalion whilst the second battalion of Baden infantry shook out into line to take on the 40th Foot.

"Cometh the hour" - The Provincial de Badajoz Militia step up and take the fight back to the Hesse battalions amazing everyone involved. Ahead to their left can be seen the 1/40th Foot (544) sorting out the Badeners. General Campbell can be seen top right steadying the Antequeran Cazadores
Up to this point the fire from the weaker British battalions of the 7th Fusiliers and 53rd Foot had seemed rather desultory compared with what you would expect from a British battalion and their lack of numbers couldn't have helped. The 40th Foot on the other hand were one of Wellesley's stronger battalions and so we shouldn't have been that surprised to see them pour forth a devastating volley in to the Badeners before them that staggered the battalion backwards.

The heroes of the day, the Provincial de Badajoz Militia launching their own bayonet counter attack following their two devastating volleys that retook the Pajar redoubt and reclaimed the allied guns. The smoke is from the volley from the 40th Foot.
With what looked liked the turning point as the British volley enveloped the Baden unit in smoke, the Hesse battalions charged forward at the II/Badajoz, who immediately turned tail and fled without firing a shot.

With their tails up the two Hesse battalions charged on into the I/Badajoz and like their regimental comrades they too turned tail and broke before contact leaving the third and last Spanish unit in line facing the oncoming victorious German battalions.

Turning point as the lead German battalion are about to break back off the Pajar
It looked like game set and match as the Spanish infantry seemed to collapse under the attack as the two German battalions charged at the Provincial de Badajoz Militia. Then something happened.

The Spanish militia battalion stood the first charge and with half the battalion coolly presented arms and let fly a column staggering volley that stopped the Hesse battalion dead in its tracks horrified to see General Grandjean fall mortally wounded from the saddle.

It seemed we were all holding our breath as the second Hesse battalion charged in keen on avenging this lucky shot when the other half of the Spanish militia battalion followed the example of their brothers in arms and coolly shot the second Hesse battalion to a standstill.

The field of battle as the German Division breaks contact leaving the field of battle to the victorious allies.
As the smoke cleared the Spanish battalion lowered their bayonets and charged in to finish things, catching one of the German battalions as they both turned tail and fled. Two of the German battalions were in full rout and the other retired shaken with General Grandjean dead and General Leval carried from the field with a serious wound following his meeting with the Spanish militia battalion.

Not only that but our game was over with the German Division at 75% army morale failure and the astonishing performance of the Provincial de Badajoz Militia to savour as an incredible game turning event.

The butchers bill and game statistics illustrate what a convincing victory the allied infantry achieved but doesn't do justice to how things looked in the final turn as two Spanish battalions broke and fled without firing a shot.

You have to feel for Will commanding the Germans after his careful approach and full bloodied assault seemed to have paid dividends especially with the Nassau battalions and Baden artillery able to successfully tie down the other British brigade. Then with victory in his grasp to have a Spanish militia battalion, pull a bit of an "Albuera" on him was hard to watch, but was a fantastic end to a very close well fought battle. We are looking forward to playing this scenario again and Carnage & Glory is the rule set that just keeps on giving!

Talavera - Pajar Vergara       
Major victory for the Allied Army as of Game Turn: 9 

The Allied Army has suffered losses of: 
[ 4%]    354 men of all arms   incl.
[ 1%]    122 prisoners of all arms
[ 4%]    327 bayonets 
[ 0%]      0 sabres 
[ 9%]     27 artillerists                   
11 cannon[s] lost 
Honours: [547] Kemmis' Bde. Light Bn.

The French Army has suffered losses of: 
[15%]    984 men of all arms   incl.
[ 1%]    109 prisoners of all arms
[15%]    936 bayonets 
[11%]     48 artillerists                    
6 cannon[s] lost 
Honours: [160] III Fuss Batterien Steinmetz
Losses include 2 General[s]:        
[118] Baron Jean-Francois Leval - Dressing wound        
[121] Balthazard-Grandjean - Mortally wounded

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Talavera - Pajar Vergara      As of Game Turn: 9 
Division Alexander Campbell - Defend  
[ 517] Brigadier General Alexander Campbell - Active C [875 paces]    
[R] [ 548] Lawson's Brigade                  10/ 135      C          Shaken                 
[R] [ 621] 1st Battery                             17/ 131 [ 1] D+      Shaken             

Brigade William Myers - Defend    
[ 518] Lieutenant Colonel William Myers - Active C [450 paces] 
[ 541] 2/7th Foot                                     19/ 369      C- [sk] Formed    
[ 542] 2/53rd Foot                                     0/ 483      C- [sk] Formed            
[ 543] A. Campbell's Bde. Light Bn.      17/ 144      C  [sk] Formed   
    
Brigade James Kemmis - Defend    
[ 519] Colonel James Kemmis - Active C [450 paces] 
[ 544] 1/40th Foot                                   26/ 644      C+ [sk] Formed    
[ 545] 97th Foot                                        0/ 452      C+ [sk] Formed            
[ 546] 2nd Battalion of Detachments        5/ 557      C- [sk] Formed              
[ 547] Kemmis' Bde. Light Bn.                 8/ 236      C+ [sk] Formed    
  
Division Marques de Portago - Defend  
[ 528] Major General Marques de Portago - Active C [725 paces] 
[ 553] El Rey A                                               0/ 229      D        Formed              
[ 554] El Rey B                                                0/ 231     D        Formed                 
[R] [ 600] 1st Bn. Badajoz Regiment            72/ 499      D-      Shaken               
[ 601] 2nd Bn. Badajoz Regiment                 50/ 507      D-      Formed           
[R] [ 602] 2nd Cazadores de Antequera      120/ 437      D- [sk] Disorder          
[ 603] Imperial de Toledo                                0/ 792      D-      Formed             
[ 604] Provincial de Badajoz Militia               8/ 569      D        Formed        
[ 605] Provincial de Guadix Militia                2/ 560      D        Formed              

Strengths: losses/active   
327/6249 Bayonets     
0/460 Sabres    
27/266 Artillerists    
11/1 Cannon
   
354/  6975 Total of all arms           
13 Standards present 

Legend:    
[D] Denotes dispersed    
[Y] Denotes In rout    
[R] Denotes halted in disorder, in retirement or retreat    
[W] Denotes no advance unless accompanied by officer

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Talavera - Pajar Vergara      As of Game Turn: 9 
Division Baron Jean-Francois Leval - Attack  
[ 118] General de Division Baron Jean-Francois Leval - Dressing wound B- [875 paces]
    
Brigade Heinrich Freiherr von Porbeck - Attack    
[ 119] Oberst Heinrich Freiherr von Porbeck - Active B [450 paces] 
[ 160] III Fuss Batterien Steinmetz                  7/ 183       C       Formed    
[W] [ 161] I.von Harrant Nr.4 (Baden)          17/ 359       C- [sk] Formed     
[Y] [ 162] II.von Harrant Nr.4 (Baden)       107/ 260        C- [sk] Rout          
[ 163] I.Nassau IR Nr.2                                   0/ 360        C- [sk] Formed        
[ 164] II.Nassau IR Nr.2                                  0/ 386        C- [sk] Formed    
[ 165] Porbeck's Voltigeur Bn.                      25/ 292        C- [sk] Disorder      
    
Brigade David-Hendrik Chasse - Attack [No Advance]    
[ 120] Generalmajor David-Hendrik Chasse - Active C [350 paces]    
[R] [ 166] 3m3 Artillerie a Cheval Trip        26/ 121         C       Shaken        
[ 167] I/2me Regiment Linie                           7/ 386         C- [sk] Formed        
[ 168] 2/4me Regiment Linie                         14/ 364        C- [sk] Disorder          
[R] [ 169] Chasse's Voltigeur Bn.                  36/ 118        C- [sk] Shaken        
    
Brigade Balthazard-Grandjean - Attack [Retire]   
[ 121] General de Brigade Balthazard-Grandjean - Mortally wounded B [450 paces]    
[R] [ 170] III. Fuss. Batterien Venator           15/  81          C       Disorder          
[R] [ 171] 1/Gross und Erbprinz Nr 4             91/ 307        C- [sk] Shaken            
[Y] [ 172] 2/Gross und Erbprinz Nr 4           154/ 217        C- [sk] Rout          
[ 173] Rheinbund Bttn von Frankfort               0/ 391         C- [sk] Formed    
[ 174] Grandjean's Voltigeur Bn.                      8/ 217         C- [sk] Formed        
    
Brigade Feliks Potocki - Attack    [ 122] Oberst Feliks Potocki - Active C [350 paces] 
[ 175] I. IR Nr 4 (Polish)                                  0/ 761          C  [sk] Disorder      
[ 176] II. IR Nr 4 (Polish)                                 0/ 782          C         Disorder      
[ 177] Potocki's Voltigeur Bn.                          0/ 260          C  [sk] Disorder      

Strengths: losses/active   
459/5460 Bayonets    
48/385 Artillerists     
6/12 Cannon
507/5845 Total of all arms           
11 Standards present 
Legend:    
[D] Denotes dispersed    
[Y] Denotes In rout    
[R] Denotes halted in disorder, in retirement or retreat    
[W] Denotes no advance unless accompanied by officer

A great game to finish 2015 with more to come on JJ's with a review of the year and a look forward at plans for 2016.

Thank you to everyone that has joined in the fun here on the blog, I really appreciate the comments and discussion generated and would like to wish everyone a Happy and Peaceful New Year.

JJ

10 comments:

  1. Thanks for your comments chaps. I know I said it this about the last game we played, but this has got to be one of the most exciting games played so far. The Spanish counter attack was so unexpected and game changing that it just made the game complete.

    Happy new year and good gaming
    JJ

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  2. Surprising outcome! The Germans looked set on carrying the day only to be rebuffed by Spanish militia not only once but twice. Give the militia medals all around!

    Excellent BatRep!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Jonathan, you should have heard the cries of amazement in the room when it happened. We had all decided that the game was only going to end in one way and it just turned in a moment.

      I love moments like that.

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  3. Great stuff.

    I'll start to paint my Peninsular collection later this month and this is just the kick up the proverbial I need.

    Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you James.

      I tell you what, if you get stuck into that Peninsular War collection, I'll get stuck into my Dacian Wars, as I am looking forward to seeing your new project up and running.

      All the best
      JJ

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  4. Fabulous! Very impressive troops and scenario! Greetings!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, glad you enjoyed the read
      JJ

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