"a tremendous cannonade - shots and shells were falling in every direction - but none of the enemy were to be seen - the men were all lying in their ranks, and except at the very spot where a shot or shell fell, there was not the least motion - I have not seen men killed in the ranks by cannon shots - those immediately around the spot would remove the mutilated corpse to the rear, they would then lie down as if nothing had occurred and remain in the ranks, steady as before. The common men could be brought to face the greatest danger, there is a spirit which tells me it is possible, but I could not believe that they could remain without emotion, when attacked not knowing from whence. Such, however, was the conduct of our men I speak particularly of the Brigade on the 28th July, and from this steadiness so few suffered as by remaining quiet the shots bounded over their heads."
An Ensign in the Third Guards describing the dawn barrage on the 28th July 1809 at Talavera
|Dawn Attack scenario map showing the units and objective points for the French. The divisions of Villate and Ruffin are supported by Merlin's and Beaumont's cavalry|
The attack on the Cerro de Medellin by General Ruffin's division at Talavera is like the attacks made by Ney and Reynier's troops at Busacco ridge almost exactly a year later a seemingly thankless task for any prospective French commander.
The prospect of marching up a steep slope through a screen of British light infantry, getting shot by British guns only to get volleyed and charged back down said steep slope by a British line, does not seem that appealing to most aspiring French commanders.
We of course have the benefit of two hundred years of hindsight and analysis that influences our thinking. Generals Ruffin, Ney, Reynier and the troops they commanded were not so informed and thus recreating the situation they faced in the vain hope that our well read wargamer will follow in their footsteps and reveal hidden truths on the tabletop, is a challenge to the scenario designer, to say the least.
The plan of action that Marshal Victor came up with on July 28th 1809 was based on his experience of battle too date facing the Austrians, Prussians and Russians that clearly showed that a rapid advance by his infantry in multiple columns screened by his light troops and with a preparatory bombardment of the enemy line by his massed artillery, coupled with the élan of his veteran infantry, used to victory, would be all that was needed to overcome the British defenders on the Cerro de Medellin.
At this stage of the Empire, the rapier had given way to the bludgeon and as manpower was in plentiful supply, he ordered that both Ruffin and Villatte's divisions, twenty-one battalions, should make the assault.
|The French artillery commence their barrage with half their batteries as they attempt to get the range|
General Villatte could only advance into the attack once Ruffin's men had established themselves on the summit and the whole operation had to be completed in slightly under four hours to replicate the original design.
In reality, for some unknown reason, Villatte never made the supporting assault and Ruffin's troops were bloodily repulsed losing 1,300 men in little over forty minutes. I think possibly the effect of seeing his veterans running back down the slope they had only previously gone over must have come as a distinct shock to Victor and perhaps just stayed his hand before launching his second division into the attack.
To aid General Ruffin in his task, the massed guns of I Corps plus the light cavalry brigades of Beaumont, Ormancey and Strolz were at his command and he could design his barrage to last for thirty or forty-five minutes before advancing to the objective.
|The 1st Battalion of Detachments fall back over the crest to take cover alongside Stuart's Light Battalion|
|After a forty-five minute barrage the French guns fall silent as the 9e Legere advance across the Portina, supported by Beaumont's light cavalry|
|Stuart's Light Battalion move out over the crest supported by the fire from the KGL guns|
The KGL batteries of Rettberg and Heyse plied the French troops with 6lbr shot but the columns simply closed ranks and continued on leaving a trail of blue clad shapes littering the ground in their wake.
The light company men of Stuart's Light Battalion had been badly shaken by the French barrage. None of the men had ever experienced such a shock and the veterans of Vimeiro were equally as astonished by the violence as the newest recruits. The battalion fell back in considerable disorder and drew the attention of Sir Arthur Wellesley, who joined the battalion and pointed out that they would have experienced much worse in 1803 at Assaye and to return to their positions. Immediately galvanised into action the light bobs worked their way back down the forward slopes, calmly finding cover and watching the French infantry approach.
|Beaumont's cavalry moved up to Valdefuentes Farm in support of the Legere|
At that moment Wellesley trotted up along side and passed his compliments.
"I trust you had a good night following the spot of nuisance from our French friends, General Hill?"
"Capital my Lord, capital and I fancy we are in for more fun and games before the morning is out if that French cavalry and artillery are any sign."
"Mmm, I think we may be wise to match their cavalry with a little of our own. Captain, my compliments to General Payne and please ask him to send me General's Fane and Anson's brigades to this side of the hill under my command."
|Wellesley redeploys Fane's and Anson's cavalry brigades to his threatened flank. The 3rd Dragoon Guards charge the 1/9e Legere at Vadefuentes Farm|
As the British artillery reduced its outputs, the battle was taken up by the light battalions of both sides as muskets and rifles cracked away and individuals could be seen to fall. As the French troops appeared to be working their way down the valley, Rettberg's brigade limbered up and moved off along the ridge with orders to support the cavalry brigades assembling under the command of General Wellesley.
|Charge and react markers blossom as the action gets close and the tension mounts. The battle reaches a climax, as the lines and artillery deploy|
On the other side of the farm the 2e Hussars and 5e Chasseurs a Cheval were shaking out into line. Suddenly a shout of warning rang out from the Legere as out of the mist loomed two squadrons of British heavy dragoons who were gathering speed as they approached from off the crest.
With British infantry above them and British heavy cavalry charging to their front, Major Dauture commanding in the place of Colonel Meunier, promoted to brigade commander, ordered the "Incomparable" to present arms. The British cavalry looked irresistible until the volley was unleashed, but the French commander was unable to prevent his men from backing away.
The volley had stopped the charge fifty paces short leaving thirty of the red-coated cavalrymen dead or wounded and the the heavy dragoons disordered next to the farm buildings. The 9e Legere however were equally disordered and by falling back had uncovered the flank of the 1/3e Artillerie a Cheval as they unlimbered in preparation to bombard the British infantry on the crest with canister.
|The 1st Detachments fire into the voltigeurs screening the 9e Legere, just before charging downhill and upsetting the whole French attack plan|
|The French bring up horse artillery to support their attack on the ridge as the 24e Ligne approach the lower slopes|
|Both sides rush supports to the threatened area around Valdefuentes|
|Suddenly the battle turns. The 3rd Dragoon Guards strike the French horse guns as the French infantry are driven back by the tiring Detachments|
|British cavalry move threateningly off the slopes of the Medellin|
|With only five turns remaining and the French assault stalled, we called it a night|
The 1st Battalion of Detachments, a mongrel battalion, performed admirably, particularly after getting caught in the first fifteen minutes of the French bombardment and with it carrying the fatigue from the previous nights fighting.
The change in the early morning weather to include a drizzle that reduced visibility to 400 paces at one stage, severely limited long range artillery and the use of bringing up horse guns for a bit of close range work seemed to have been a particularly inspired move by Tom until they got chopped up by the 3rd DG.
This first test has given an early steer towards making this a challenge for both sides. Clearly the French command would be acutely aware of any change in the British defence in response to their first moves. This position was not the classic "Wellingtonian" reverse slope with the ability to reposition troops unobserved and thus it seems likely that troops moved to defend against Ruffin could trigger an attack from Villatte. This needs to be built in to create a similar pressure on our tabletop commanders. Thus a successful attack from Ruffin could be getting on to the ridge or drawing away troops from the British centre, which would trigger a reinforcement.
Our battles are going to get larger as we progress and we need to improve our playing methods to allow more efficient use of time. With more play experience with C&G we are much quicker cycling through the sequence, but small things like introducing the coloured counters add greatly to making command and control simpler for the players and worked well. We used white for no advance, red for halt, red with a casualty figure for retire and yellow for rout.
I am looking at producing a simple little laminated card that can be used by players to quietly let the game master know about any change of orders without alerting the opposition.
Tom, taking the French, played a very safe and limited game and was reluctant to go hell for leather at the Medellin in daylight, however the attack needed to be pressed and the 24e Ligne should have set off with the Legere to pin Tilson's brigade. We were acutely aware that Steve playing the British was too knowledgeable about the constraints placed on the French and knowing Villatte would not attack whilst Ruffin was kept off the crest allowed him the comfort to shift his assets more freely than Wellesley would have felt, and a level of uncertainty as discussed above needs to be created to keep the British commander honest. I am keen to allow the French commander to go for a minimalist assault as this would work well in a linked campaign where the French commander would want to strive to reduce his casualties but be rewarded for doing better than the historical attack, Thus getting away with a minor British victory would be a reward with the main attack still to come. To qualify as a minimalist attack, it would require the French commander to commit (to be defined) all nine battalions of Ruffin's division as was the case and perhaps there should be a penalty in a series of linked games for not reaching that minimum level of compliance with Victor's orders.
Still this was the first test and I feel I have a better idea on timings and mechanisms that could be included in test two. In addition I think I need to see if we can play out fifteen turns up to 9am with a full out attack to gauge the limits of this scenario. Perhaps I'll have to get Tom up on the Medellin and see if his old Dad can get him off.
[D] denotes Dispersed and removed from the field
[W] denotes No Advance
[R] denotes Halt or Retire
[Y] denotes Routing
Army Sir Arthur Wellesley
 Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley - Active A [1500 paces]
 Eliott's Brigade 0/ 151 [ 6] C Good Fresh
 Rettberg's Brigade 12/ 132 [ 6] C Good Fresh
 Heyse's Brigade 0/ 149 [ 6] C Good Tiring
Division William Payne - Defend
 Lieutenant General William Payne - Active C+ [725 paces]
Brigade Henry Fane - Defend
 Brigadier General Henry Fane - Active B- [400 paces]
 3rd Dragoon Guards A 28/ 227 C+ Good Tiring
 3rd Dragoon Guards B 0/ 273 C+ Ex'lent Fresh
 4th Dragoons A 0/ 279 C Good Fresh
 4th Dragoons B 0/ 271 C Good Fresh
Brigade Stapleton Cotton - Defend
 Brigadier General Stapleton Cotton - Active B+ [500 paces]
 14th Light Dragoons A 0/ 240 C [sk] Good Fresh
 14th Light Dragoons B 0/ 229 C [sk] Good Fresh
 16th Light Dragoons A 0/ 253 C [sk] Good Fresh
 16th Light Dragoons B 0/ 271 C [sk] Good Fresh
Brigade George Anson - Defend
 Brigadier General George Anson - Active B- [400 paces]
 23rd Light Dragoons A 0/ 229 C [sk] Good Fresh
 23rd Light Dragoons B 0/ 224 C [sk] Good Fresh
 1st Light Dragoons KGL A 0/ 220 C+ [sk] Good Fresh
 1st Light Dragoons KGL B 0/ 228 C+ [sk] Good Fresh
Division John Coape Sherbrooke - Defend
 Lieutenant General John Coape Sherbrooke - Active B- [800 paces]
Brigade Ernest Baron Langwerth - Defend
 Brigadier General Ernest Baron Langwerth - Active B- [350 paces]
 1st KGL Line Battalion 0/ 544 C- [sk] Good Fresh
 2nd KGL Line Battalion 0/ 610 C- [sk] Good Fresh
 Langwerth's Bde. Light Bn. 14/ 220 C [sk] Good Fresh
Brigade Sigismund Baron Low - Defend
 Brigadier General Sigismund Baron Low - Active C+ [450 paces]
 5th KGL Line Battalion 20/ 529 C- [sk] Good Fresh
 7th KGL Line Battalion 34/ 467 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[D]  Low's Bde. Light Bn. 33/ 84 C [sk] Poor Tired
Division Rowland Hill - Defend
 Major General Rowland Hill - Active B- [950 paces]
Brigade Christopher Tilson - Defend
 Brigadier General Christopher Tilson - Active C+ [350 paces]
 1/3rd Foot 0/ 671 C+ [sk] Good Fresh
 2/48th Foot 0/ 510 C- [sk] Good Fresh
 2/66th Foot 0/ 473 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[R]  Tilson's Bde. Light Bn. 38/ 199 C [sk] Good Tiring
Brigade Richard Stewart - Defend
 Brigadier General Richard Stewart - Active B [450 paces]
 29th Foot 0/ 538 C+ [sk] Good Fresh
 1/48th Foot 0/ 726 C- [sk] Good Fresh
 1st Battalion of Detachments 92/ 456 C- [sk] Good Tired
 Stuart's Bde. Light Bn. 77/ 125 C [sk] Good Acceptable
Brigade Rufane Donkin - Defend
 Colonel Rufane Donkin - Active B- [350 paces]
 2/87th Foot 0/ 539 C- [sk] Good Fresh
 1/88th Foot 0/ 539 C- [sk] Good Fresh
 5/60th Rifles 0/ 220 B- [sk] Ex'lent Fresh
 Donkin's Bde. Light Bn. 0/ 175 C [sk] Good Fresh
308/ 7625 Bayonets
28/ 2944 Sabres
12/ 432 Artillerists
0/ 18 Cannon
348/ 11001 Total of all arms
Talavera - Dawn Attack
[D] denotes Dispersed and removed from the field
[W] denotes No Advance
[R] denotes Halt or Retire
[Y] denotes Routing
 Marechal d'Empire Claude-Victor Perrin - Active B- [1300 paces]
 6/8me Artillerie a Pied 11/ 182 [ 8] C Good Fresh
 2/6me Artillerie a Cheval 6/ 150 [ 6] B- Ex'lent Fresh
 1/8me Artillerie a Pied 0/ 195 [ 8] C Good Fresh
Division Francois Amable Ruffin - Attack
 General de Division Francois Amable Ruffin - Active D+ [650 paces]
 4/8me Artillerie a Pied 6/ 203 [ 8] C+ Good Fresh
Brigade Claude-Marie Meunier - Attack
 General de Brigade Claude-Marie Meunier - Active B- [400 paces]
 1/9me Regiment de Legere 67/ 400 C [sk] Average Acceptable
 2/9me Regiment de Legere 27/ 470 C [sk] Good Fresh
 3/9me Regiment de Legere 0/ 491 C- [sk] Good Fresh
 1/24me Regiment de Ligne 10/ 462 C [sk] Good Fresh
 2/24me Regiment de Ligne 23/ 448 C [sk] Good Fresh
 3/24me Regiment de Ligne 7/ 490 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[Y]  9me Regt. Voltigeur Bn. 108/ 200 C [sk] Poor Acceptable
[R]  24me Regt. Voltigeur Bn. 33/ 275 C [sk] Poor Exhausted
Brigade Pierre Barrois - Attack
 General de Brigade Pierre Barrois - Active B [450 paces]
 1/96me Regiment de Ligne. 0/ 513 C [sk] Good Fresh
 2/96me Regiment de Ligne. 0/ 507 C [sk] Good Fresh
 3/96me Regiment de Ligne. 0/ 476 C- [sk] Good Fresh
 96me Regt. Voltiguer Bn. 0/ 288 C [sk] Good Acceptable
Division Eugene Villatte - Support
 General de Division Eugene Villatte - Active B [875 paces]
 2/8me Artillerie a Pied 3/ 195 [ 8] C+ Good Acceptable
Brigade Baron Louis-Victorin Cassagne - Support
 General de Brigade Baron Louis-Victorin Cassagne - Active C+ [400 paces]
 1/27me Regiment de Legere 0/ 424 C [sk] Good Fresh
 2/27me Regiment de Legere 0/ 409 C [sk] Good Fresh
 3/27me Regiment de Legere 0/ 428 C- [sk] Good Fresh
 1/63me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 432 C [sk] Good Fresh
 2/63me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 411 C [sk] Good Fresh
 3/63me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 422 C- [sk] Good Fresh
 27me Regt. Voltigeur Bn. 0/ 261 C [sk] Good Fresh
 63me Regt. Voltigeur Bn. 0/ 261 C [sk] Good Fresh
Brigade Jacques Puthod - Support
 General de Brigade Jacques Puthod - Active C [350 paces]
 1/94me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 414 C [sk] Good Fresh
 2/94me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 434 C [sk] Good Fresh
 3/94me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 441 C- [sk] Good Fresh
 1/95me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 447 C [sk] Good Fresh
 2/95me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 447 C [sk] Good Fresh
 3/95me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 419 C- [sk] Good Fresh
 94me Regt. Voltigeur Bn. 0/ 251 C [sk] Good Fresh
 95me Regt. Voltigeur Bn. 0/ 250 C [sk] Good Fresh
Brigade Louis Carriere, Baron Beaumont - Attack
 General de Brigade Louis Carriere, Baron Beaumont - Active C+ [400 paces]
[Y]  1/3me Artillerie a Cheval 143/ 1 [ 1] B- Average Tiring
 2me Regiment de Hussards A 0/ 228 C [sk] Good Fresh
 2me Regiment de Hussards B 0/ 243 C Good Fresh
 5me Regt. Chasseur a Cheval A 0/ 259 C Good Fresh
 5me Regt. Chasseur a Cheval B 0/ 255 C [sk] Good Fresh
Division Antoine Christophe Merlin - Attack
 General de Brigade Antoine Christophe Merlin - Active C- [725 paces]
Brigade Jean Baptiste Alexandre Strolz - Attack
 Colonel Jean Baptiste Alexandre Strolz - Active D+ [300 paces]
 10me Regt. Chasseur a Cheval 0/ 327 C [sk] Good Fresh
 26me Regt. Chasseur a Cheval 0/ 216 C [sk] Good Fresh
Division Francois-Leon Ormancey - Attack
 Colonel Francois-Leon Ormancey - Active C- [650 paces]
 1st Vistula Legion Lancers A 0/ 224 C [sk] Good Fresh
 1st Vistula Legion Lancers B 0/ 206 C [sk] Good Fresh
 Westplalian Light Horse 0/ 210 C [sk] Good Fresh
275/ 11171 Bayonets
0/ 2168 Sabres
169/ 926 Artillerists
5/ 39 Cannon
444/ 14265 Total of all arms
7 Standards present
Talavera - Dawn Attack
Minor victory for the British Army
The British Army has suffered losses of:
[3%] 432 men of all arms
[2%] 332 dead and wounded
[0%] 84 missing
[0%] 16 prisoners
[4%] 392 bayonets
[0%] 28 sabres
[2%] 12 artillerists
Honours: [ 531] 1st Battalion of Detachments
The French Army has suffered losses of:
[4%] 645 men of all arms
[2%] 427 dead and wounded
[1%] 201 missing
[0%] 17 prisoners
[4%] 475 bayonets
[0%] 0 sabres
[15%] 170 artillerists
5 cannon[s] lost
Honours:  6/8me Artillerie a Pied
Next up, I'm off up to Attack 2015 in Devizes this weekend following a thoroughly enjoyable show last year, so report and pictures to come, and the 2/96e Ligne is on the painting schedule.