Friday, 16 June 2017

Talavera 208 - Game Preview

It was way way back in 2014 with the closure of the Oporto project covered in my review of the year that I refocused JJ's Wargames on the next campaign fought by Sir Arthur Wellesley, which culminated with the Battle of Talavera.

Look Back on 2014 and New Year Plans

Oporto 1809 - Miniature Wargames

It is remarkable looking back at my 2014 review that the blog was recording 7,000 hits that month and now runs at closer to 20,000 and by the end of 2014 the German Division was complete. I smiled when I read my comments about the project going forward;

"This project is BIG with 24 battalions of French infantry to be done plus a dozen odd Spanish units."

Talk about understatement, and those of you who have followed the progress over the last three years will know that it was quite a bit more than that.

The work to build the other units required was covered in my launching of the final stage, under the banner Talavera 208, and the link to Combat Stress.

Talavera 208,1809-2017 in Support of Combat Stress

As the days go by to the first game of the Talavera afternoon attack I find myself having mixed emotions of excitement at anticipating the series of games planned, a huge sense of achievement at fulfilling the commitment I made to everyone here and among friends to bring this game together, gratitude to all those who have offered their encouragement along the way and to those who have expressed their support with the fantastic contributions to the Just Giving page, a slight feeling of sadness that this stage of the journey is coming to an end and yet more excitement in thinking about future projects that will take its place.

Frankly, now I just want to play with the toys and have some fun with the collection and see what results the games will generate.

So to build the anticipation yet further for me and all of you who are looking forward to seeing this game I thought I would share some preview pictures of the collection set up on the table prior to the first set of players issuing their initial orders and moving the units into battle.

The Allied and French armies face off at Talavera viewed from the foothills of the Sierra de Segurilla

The picture of the length of the table captures the positions of the two opposing armies as they would have seen each other at about 13.00 on the 28th July 1809 just prior to the final French attack with the section of the battlefield and the corresponding units illustrated in the map below.

There are close to 2,500 figures on the table and the ground/figure scale is one inch to 50 paces or 38 yards and one figure to about 30 men; thus you are looking at a two and a half mile front by a mile and a quarter wide area and an Allied army of 31,512 men with 40 cannon and an Imperial French army of 38,518 men with 84 cannon.

My constant companion during the work on Talavera has been "Talavera, Wellington's First Victory in Spain" by Andrew W. Field. If you haven't read this book and you are the slightest bit interested in the battle, then get a copy.

I thought it might be fun to take some quotes from the book, and specifically Chapter eight, 'The Main Attack' that covers what happened during the historical battle and link them to the pictures of the different sectors.

The Talavera lines this time viewed from the Pajar de Vergara

In addition I have provided details of the units in each sector together with some of the information the players will be working with during their game as contained on the Divisional Cards seen below.

To aid the players manage this size of game there are 'Divisional Cards' carrying the information of the units and their respective commanders seen here placed on the appropriate formations during the set up and used in this post to illustrate the units in each area.

I hope you will enjoy reading about the games as we play them and the reports are published here on JJ's and to ask you that if you do, to consider making a contribution to the Talavera 208 Just Giving page that can be found on the following link.

Just Giving - Talavera 208

At the time of writing the pot has reached over £450 for Combat Stress and I wonder if we could double it and maybe reach the £1000 mark.

The victory point locations amid the Anglo-Spanish line will carry different values for opposing sides

The two game planner maps were published in a previous post and are the ones I have sent out to the players as a guide to where the various commands are located and the victory point (VP) objectives and they will guide you when looking at the pictures of the table. The VP areas are masked here to prevent opposing teams of players knowing beforehand what the value of each area is worth to each side.

The French set up as per the historical attack plan for the afternoon of 28th July 1809
The gun redoubt at the Pajar de Vergara and the Valdefuentes farm are good land marks to help orientate yourself around the table, with the Portina stream in between the two armies.

Talavera, The Afternoon Attack

There were two pieces of information that arrived on the early afternoon of the 28th July 1809 that forced the hand of King Joseph and his French generals to launch their afternoon attack on the Anglo-Spanish line.

The first came from General Valence, the governor of Toledo, who announced that the Spanish army under General Venegas was before the town and his troops were already skirmishing with the Polish pickets.

The second piece of news was from Marshal Soult announcing that because of delays in amassing his force he was unable to reach Plasencia until the 3rd of August at the earliest and possibly up to three days later thus delaying his move by a week to attempt to get behind the Anglo-Spanish forces and their retreat route back to the Portuguese border.

To quote from Field;
"If he did not immediately attack the Anglo-Spanish army he would have to march against Venegas, who posed the most immediate threat to Madrid. In order to be sure of having sufficient force to beat the Army of La Mancha, he would not be able to leave behind a force stronger than 30,000 in front of Wellesley. However, this force was threatened with defeat by the British general, who now had no immediate need to draw off to confront Soult and would, with his Spanish allies,have a considerable advantage in numbers. If, however, Joseph was able to defeat Wellesley on the 28th, his army would still be strong enough to frighten off or even dispose of Venegas. He finally concluded that he now had no option but to attack.
The French commander resolved not to make the same mistake that Victor had made in the morning, and planned to concentrate all his combat power against the British portion of the allied line."

The Battle of Talavera was very much a battle of 'firsts' as Andrew Field's book title suggests, being Wellington's or Wellesley as he was known at the battle, first victory in Spain; he was not created Viscount Wellington until after the battle in recognition for his victory.

One of the other firsts was the formal introduction of the British Peninsular Army's organisation for the rest of the war, namely the divisional structure. Until Talavera the British army had tended to fight in brigades and the generals in command would have been used to manoeuvring and deploying with these size of commands.

At Talavera we see the introduction of the first four divisions in Wellington's Peninsular Army, a structure that would see the further creation of another three, together with the famous 'Light Division', a slightly smaller formation than a full strength division to allow Wellesley the prerogative of appointing the man he wished to command it, General 'Black' Bob Crauford. The Light Division would perform an outstanding fast march from Lisbon to Talavera, covering an incredible forty-three miles in just twenty-four hours, only to arrive as the battle closed and to have the men detailed to collecting the dead and wounded; there time would come in the future.

The tour of the allied line begins with the forces arrayed around the Pajar de Vergara redoubt and farm buildings. This was a critical part of the allied line defending the join between the Anglo Spanish armies with General Portago's 3rd Spanish infantry division supported by the El Rey cavalry regiment and General Campbell's weak British 4th infantry division in line behind the redoubt with Spanish 12lbrs and British 3lbr cannon emplaced within the incomplete earthwork.

Allied Line

Pajar de Vergara Position

Brigadier General Alexander Campbell 
The weakest of the four British infantry divisions was the 4th Division commanded by Brigadier General Alexander Campbell and they formed the link with the Spanish forces that extended the allied line down to Talavera and the River Tagus.

The two Allied divisions tasked with holding the Pajar position
This area of the allied line was attacked twice by men of General Leval's German Division.

The six Spanish infantry battalions of Portago's 3rd division with Alexander Campbell's 4th division to their left and the Pajar emplacement to their front.
Encountering the Nassau and Dutch battalions, Field describes the intensity of the fighting;
"Judging the moment perfectly, General Campbell ordered the first line to charge. Colonel Myers of the 2/7th, having rallied his battalion but seeing the initial hesitation of his inexperienced troops, grabbed the battalion's King's colour and, calling out 'Come on the Fusiliers', led his men forward in the charge."

The Spanish lines ready to support the gunners in the redoubt to their front

During the second attack which was duly repulsed by the allied troops, the  only successful cavalry charge made by any regiment that day was conducted by the Regimiento del Rey (the King's Regiment) who managed to catch the Hessian and Frankfurt battalions as they fell back and were unable to form square in good time, causing many of them to be sabered before they could reach the relative safety of the olive groves to their rear.

3 x Spanish 12lbrs and 6 x British 3lbrs of Lawson's brigade

Private Cooper of the 7th Foot;
"After these two attacks and smart repulses, we were not troubled by their company any more during the battle." 

General Cuesta and his staff oversee this important juncture with the British 4th Division with Myers' brigade forward consisting of the 7th Fusiliers and 53rd Foot

Central Position

Lieutenant General John Coape Sherbrooke
The senior division in Wellesley's British army was the 1st Division with eight battalions including two battalions of Foot Guards and commanded by Lieutenant General Sherbrooke.

General Sherbrooke's 1st Division formed the bulwark of the centre of Wellesley's line

The British centre - Cambell's Guards brigade centre, Cameron's brigade right, Mackenzie's (Col. Guard) behind and Cotton's Light Dragoons top right.

The centre of the British line was where the battle was nearly lost for the allies when during the attack by men from General's Rey and Lapisse's divisions the battalions of General Sherbrooke's division, principally the Guards and King's German Legion were counter-attacked by the French second line as they followed up too far and were badly handled as they attempted to get back to their lines.

Lieutenant Charlton of the Grenadier Company, 61st Foot described the days action:

"About 10 in the morning we had a fine view of King Joseph surrounded by his body guards. His Majesty took especial care to keep his Royal person out of reach of our artillery. The action was continued with varied success in the woods until 1 o'clock. It was then obvious from the enemy's movements that a desperate attempt on our whole line was in contemplation. 

Our division received orders to charge the enemy with the bayonet the moment their caps could be seen as they ascended the ravine which was about 100 yards in our front. The French line of infantry advanced supported by artillery and cavalry with cries of 'Vive Napoleon'. 

The 61st, 83rd and Guards, with loud cheers, rushed towards the enemy with the bayonet, repulsing them, but continuing the pursuit too far, were much exposed, in returning to their ground, to the fore of the French artillery and retreating columns. These regiments were also threatened with a charge of cavalry which being observed, the 48th Regiment and a body of dragoons were brought forward to cover their reformation. 

The enemy bringing up fresh troops, the action was continued with great obstinacy until about 6 o'clock, when their efforts became weaker, and before 7 o'clock the French fell back, completely repulsed at every point. In these several attacks the 61st lost 15 officers and nearly three hundred Non Commissioned Officers and Privates.

With heartfelt sorrow I learnt that my ever lamented friend, Major Orpen, was killed in the last charge by a musket shot in the chest."

Guardsmen among the olive trees, part of Henry Campbell's brigade in Sherbrooke's 1st Division
The British 'Fighting' 3rd Division established its credentials early at Talavera

The situation was salvaged by the reserve units in the British line which enabled the KGL and Guards to rally in their rear whilst the second attack was defeated, but the fighting was fierce as the French battalions pressed hard and General Mackenzie commanding the British 3rd Division was killed as well as General Lapisse.

Major Cocks described the defeat and pursuit of the King's German Legion infantry of Langwerth's brigade;
"the whole of their infantry fairly ran away. Poor Langwerth seized the colours and, planting them, called to the men to form. He was killed in attempting to rally them. Colonel Derenham was equally unsuccessful. He got 40 or 50 around the colours but the instant he went to collect others these set up. Had not the 16th (Light Dragoons) been moved up opportunely there would have been a gap left in the line. The German's formed in our rear."

The three battalions of Mackenzie's (Guard's) 2nd brigade, 3rd Division support the rear of Henry Campbell's Guards brigade top right and Cameron's brigade top left 
The central position was the most exposed part of the British line to French artillery fire and the troops holding it had to endure an hour long French bombardment prior to the attack by simply lying down to avoid the worst of the shot and shell passing overhead.

Ensign John Aitchison of the 3rd Guards described the effects of French artillery fire and the troops response to it;
"a tremendous cannonade - shot and shells were falling in every direction - but none of the enemy were to be seen - the men were all lying in the ranks, and except in the very spot where a shot or shell fell, there was not the least motion - I have 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 be brought to remain without emotion, when attacked, not knowing from whence. Such however was the conduct of our men I speak particularly of the Brigade on 28th July, and from this steadiness so few suffered as by remaining quiet the shots bounded over their heads."

Cerro de Medellin Position

Major General Rowland Hill
The British 2nd Division was commanded by the man who was destined to become the Duke of Wellington's most reliable subordinate and capable independent commander. Perhaps Talavera was not General Hill's finest moment and his mistake in marching his division into the wrong part of the line on the evening of the 27th July nearly cost the allies dearly when French troops launching a surprise night attack nearly captured the summit of the Cerro de Medellin, the part of the line he should have been holding. However his quick thinking in bringing forward the 29th Foot to counter-attack and retake the hill top demonstrated his ability to quickly assess and remedy a difficult situation.

Rowland Hill's 2nd Division formed the core of the garrison atop the Cerro de Medellin

The two brigades of Kings German Legion infantry with their blue regimental colours indicate the end of Sherbooke's 1st Division as the ground rises to the peak  of the Cerro de Medellin

The Cerro de Medellin was the linchpin of the Anglo-Spanish line and had already been subjected to two French attacks prior to the afternoon, a night attack on the 27th July that succeeded in getting part of the 9me Legere on to its summit before they were speedily repulsed by 29th Foot led forward by General Hill. The French then attempted to repeat the attack the next morning with the same troops that had had little sleep from their night time escapade only to be bloodily repulsed for the second time.

Talavera Night Attack - Game Three

Talavera Dawn Attack - Game Three

Any attempt to repeat the attack would be up against brigades from 1st, 2nd and 3rd Division backing up a forward slope bristling with British and KGL gun batteries.

The brigades of 2nd  Division support the forward line of KGL infantry atop the Cerro de Medellin with Sir Arthur Wellesley in close attendance centre left. Note Donkin's brigade from 3rd Division, extreme left. The French I Corps d'Armee can be seen across the valley atop the Cerro de Cascajal.
The Cerro de Medellin was also the highest point of observation on the battlefield, providing some protection to the troops garrisoning its top with a modicum of protection from French artillery provided by it higher ridge line. However with the ridge line running north-east to south-west there was not enough protection for the forward lines, especially among the KGL brigades.

Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley
Sir Arthur Wellesley made it his observation post during the battle with views in to the Portina and Northern valleys that allowed him extra time to order forward reserves to deal with observed French advances.

The advantage of the views offered along his line enabled Wellesley to display a characteristic that would become a common one, with his ability to always seem to be in the right place at the right time and be able to respond appropriately.

To quote Field's description;
"Observing the the struggle in the centre of his line he was able to quickly appreciate that Mackenzie's (Commanded by Lt.Colonel Guard) brigade (see the picture above of the central position) would not be sufficient to rally the whole of Sherbrooke's division and to plug the large gap that had appeared in the centre of the British line. As Langwerth's routed brigade rushed back pursued in its turn by the apparently victorious French, he might well have regretted pulling Donkin's brigade up on to the summit of the Medellin earlier in the day (Donkin's brigade can be seen in the picture above to the left of view). However he was not prepared to weaken the key to his defensive line by such a strong force while fresh French troops stood in observation just a few hundred yards away. As he could not spare more than a single battalion he chose the 1/48th from Richard Stewart's brigade."

The allied gun line bolstered with Spanish 12 and 4lbr guns guard the eastern and northern slopes of the Cerro de Medellin.
The 1/48th are to the right of picture behind the gun line. They were moved over to the centre to help restore Wellesley's line in the actual battle, when Sherbrooke's division got into trouble.
The views and firing positions the Medellin granted the allied troops made this a very uninviting target for the French units detailed to attack it and in the afternoon the French decided against another assault on its steep front slopes and opted to try and turn the position by advancing down the Northern Valley to attack the heights from that direction.

Northern Valley Position

General Duke of Albuquerque

Major General Bassecourt

General William Payne's British Cavalry Division supports the centre and northern valley with two brigades
nearest camera (Anson and Fane's Heavies) and Cotton's Light Dragoon brigade beyond the gun teams

The Northern Valley separated the Cerro de Medellin from the foothills of the Sierra de Segurilla and provided a run off of snow melt from the mountains beyond creating many dried gullies in the summer, some practically invisible at ground level and that could and did cause much difficulty to troops crossing the area at speed.

Alongside Fane and Anson's British cavalry are Albuquerque's Spanish cavalry and Bassecourt's infantry

Wellesley from his observation point on the Medellin was very aware of French troops moving into the valley from their lines and asked his ally, Cuesta, to provide troops from his end of the line to help secure the valley from the turning manoeuvre that seemed very likely to be made against the British heights.

Cuesta responded by sending Albuquerque's cavalry and Bassecourt's infantry together with the three 12lbr guns and a battery of six 4lbr horse guns.

General William Payne in front of Anson and Fane's British cavalry brigades
The approach of Ruffin's French infantry division supported by part of Villattes division and the I Corps cavalry brigade prompted Wellesley to order Anson's light cavalry into the valley and delay their forward momentum as allied guns played on their columns and later squares from the Medellin heights.

The 23rd Light Dragoons supported by the 1st KGL Hussars charged the French infantry as they drew level with the Valdefuentes farm, forcing the French to form square to receive them. Too late the 23rd LD discovered an unseen fifteen foot wide and ten foot deep gully that caused the regiment to loose 180 troopers and over 200 horses as men and beasts fell into the steep ravine ahead of them.

The survivors then careered on unformed among the French squares only to be driven off by Beaumont's French chasseurs and hussars waiting for them behind the infantry.

To quote Field;
"The commanding officer of the 23rd, Colonel Seymour, rallied the survivors of the two right-hand squadrons and with Colonel Elley (Sir John Elley was the adjutant general of Wellesley's cavalry) charged forward against the squares of the French light infantry. The left-hand squadron ran up against the French square whose 'well directed volley' caused further heavy casualties and threw them back. However, the right-hand squadron found itself unopposed by infantry and charged on into the French cavalry behind."

The Spanish 1st Real Marina regiment forms the first line of Bassecourt's 5th Infantry Division in the Northern Valley
The French attack in this sector was not prosecuted with any great vigour and when news reached the commanders here of French repulses further along the line, the French troops quickly returned to their start point chivvied on their way by allied gun fire from the Medellin.

French Line

Northern Valley Position

General de Division Ruffin
The French attack in the Northern Valley was the last to develop that afternoon, with the columns of Ruffin and Villatte not moving forward until the battle in the centre was reaching its climax.

General Francois Ruffin could have been forgiven a large sigh of despair when he heard his orders were to lead his somewhat battered division in yet another attack on the British heights; the weakest in numbers of the three divisions in I Corps, being light by one regiment of three battalions, and now weaker still with the casualties suffered in the night and dawn attacks prosecuted earlier by his men on the Cerro de Medellin.

To support the move into the valley with the intention of turning to attack the Medellin close to the Valdefuentes Farm Ruffin's division would be supported by General Cassagne's brigade from General Villatte's 3rd Division, the I Corps cavalry under General Beaumont, and IV Corps cavalry under General Merlin.

General de Brigade Beaumont
The combat in the valley is covered above in the description of the allied forces opposed to the French in this area of the battlefield.

General Ruffin with his 1st Division supported by Beaumont's cavalry to their rear
Note, as with the other French infantry divisions facing the Anglo-Spanish line that day, the divisional artillery component was detached to join the fifty gun grand battery placed on the forward slopes of the Cerro de Casacajal and along the line to bombard the allied infantry in preparation of the French attacks.

General de Brigade Meunier with the 9me Legere in the foothills of the Sierra de Segerilla on the road to Salamanca

Lieutenant Girod de l'Ain of the 9me Legere is quoted describing the attack of the British light cavalry into the Northern Valley as seen from his position on the lower slopes of the Sierra de Segurilla as his regiment skirmished with General Bassecourt's Spanish infantry;

"this was a charge by some English cavalry, that we saw arrive from afar like a hurricane, it was a regiment of dragoons charging in order of battle and launched full tilt... We observed this line of enemy cavalry, incapable of manoeuvre, following a single direction so blindly, that we shouted with one voice: 'They are deserting, they are deserting!' But soon saw one of our regiments of legere (the 27me Legere) which, marching in column close to an isolated house, found itself in the path of this cavalry; not having time to form square, it threw itself around the house, with their backs against the four walls; the square thus found itself naturally formed, and the more solid ... The English line extended well beyond both sides, to right and left ... the two wings no longer master of their horses ... continued on their course straight ahead, always flat out. We then saw a line of French cavalry, which stationed in the rear, came up at the 'petit trot' before the English cavalry; it was the brigade of General Strolz, composed of the 10eme and 26eme Chasseurs a Cheval. We anxiously wondered what would happen when these two lines of cavalry met; but the shock did not last long: we saw the English line pass through the French line, without stopping or losing their formation; we only had time to notice a few sabres flash in the air and the smoke of some pistol shots... but soon our chasseurs remounted and, a little shaken, launched themselves at the gallop in pursuit of the English dragoons, which only stopped in the waters of the Alberche, where they were all taken prisoner. 

Cerro de Casacajal Position

General de Division Villatte
General Eugene Villatte's 3rd Division became the principle reserve for I Corps at Talavera with the battalions of the division suffering the fewest casualties of all those in I Corps d'Armee.

General Puthod's brigade remained in reserve for the whole battle atop the French heights, the Cerro de Cascajal, slightly lower than the Medellin opposite, but providing good views of the opposing lines to the French generals and their staff.

General de Brigade Merlin

Although somewhat lower than the opposing Cerro de Medellin, the Casacajal offered the French a flatter less undulating summit, and a very useful platform for them to establish the core of their grand battery of Corps and Divisional gun batteries.

The bombardment these French guns provided during the battle was the torment of the British infantry throughout the long hot day of the 28th July, as covered above in the section on the Allied troops in the centre of the line, with 3rd Guards Ensign Aitchison's description of his brigades suffering and stoicism under such fire.

I Corps, 3rd Division (12 battalions) and IV Corps cavalry behind the French grand battery atop the Cerro de Cascajal

The threat posed by the French troops on the Cascajal restrained Wellesley from detaching troops from the large garrison he had constructed to hold the Medellin. The French columns could very quickly cross the valley of the Portina should they observe any realignment of British troops and a subsequent weakening of the key allied position.

I Corps, 2nd Division on the southern slopes of the Cascajal 

General Cassagne's brigade of I Corps, 3rd Division, with the 27eme Legere closet to camera, supported Ruffin's attack in the Northern Valley
The Cascajal as with the Medellin also offered an excellent position for the French command to observe and plan their moves taking advantage of the views obtained from its higher position.

However the imposing views could do little to smooth over the tensions that existed in the ranks of the French command at Talavera atop the Cerro de Cascajal.

King Joseph Bonaparte
King Joseph, Napoleon's elder brother struggled to impose much authority during the battle, especially as the Emperor had given him no authority to command the marshals, and this problem became all to evident as Marshal Victor sought to set the agenda on where, when and with what, various French attack options should be selected.

Marshal Jourdan
Marshal Jourdan was the elder statesman of the French marshalate by the time of Talavera and was appointed by the Emperor to act as a military adviser to his brother the King. However like his master he had little ability to influence his younger colleague, Victor, who probably considered Jourdan to be yesterday's man.

The King and his staff amid the columns of I Corps 

Marshal Victor
Marshal Victor might be described as impetuous, and his dawn attack on the Talavera line has been condemned by many commentators for its lack of consideration as to what the French army was facing in the form of Wellesley's British troops; an army neither he or his soldiers had fought against prior to Talavera, but whose performance in the previous clashes with his troops might have given pause for consideration.

The Vistula Lancers, part of IV Corps cavalry in the rear of  the 95me Ligne part of Puthod's brigade in Cassagne's division
He was however a commander to be reckoned with as his surprise attacks at Casa de Salinas and on the Medellin on the 27th July had revealed shortcomings in Wellesley's army that only time and experience would remedy, but that might be taken advantage of here.

Marshal Victor (front centre), the rather impetuous 'wunderkind' of the French Marshalate amid his powerful I Corps d'Armee with King Joseph and Marshal Jourdan (left rear on circular base), probably wondering if he will stick to the plan.

I Corps, 3rd Division with General Merlin's IV Corps cavalry to their rear

Central Position

The centre of the French line was where the main thrust was planned to be delivered by I Corps, 2nd Division and IVth Corps, 1st Division each with twelve battalions and supported by the 2nd Dragoon Division intended to follow up the successful penetration of the British line and complete their destruction.

General Sebastiani's IVth Corps with General Rey's 1st Division's twelve battalions centre and right of picture supported to their rear by General Latour Maubourg's 2nd Dragoon Division. To the left of picture are the battalions of I Corps, 2nd Division
The imposing number of French soldiers positioned here are placed like a dagger at the throat of Wellesley's army and as presented in the review of the allied positions very nearly achieved their objective.

To quote Field;
"At about 15.00 the divisions of Lapisse and Sebastiani stated their advance. The forward line of battalion columns moved off in an imposing mass through the line of their own artillery. The second line also advanced but kept well behind to act as the reserve, finally stopping behind a stone wall ..... This second line would be far enough behind the first to ensure that it would not be swept away by the broken battalions (should the initial attack falter) and would still be able to exploit the inevitable disorder in the opposition line if it pursued too far."

General de Brigade Rey
Ensign Aitchison of the 3rd Guards recalled the attack;
"The French came on over the rough and broken ground  ..... in the most imposing manner and with great resolution."

A French officer described the first line of columns attack;
"The French charged with shouldered arms as was their custom. When they arrived at short range, the English line remained motionless, some hesitation was seen in the march. The officers and NCOs shouted at the soldiers, 'Forward March; don't fire'. Some even cried 'They're surrendering'.  The forward movement was therefore resumed; but it was not until extremely close range of the English line that the latter started a two rank fire which carried destruction into the heart f the French line, stopped its movement and produced some disorder. While the officers shouted at the soldiers 'Forward: Don't Fire' the English suddenly stopped their own fire and charged with the bayonet. Everything was favourable to them; orderliness, impetus, and the resolution to fight with the bayonet. Among the French on the other hand, there was no longer any impetus, but disorder and surprise caused by the enemy's unexpected resolve. Flight was inevitable."

Another view of IVth Corps with General Sebastiani commanding just to the left of the gun line and with the 2nd German Division off in among the olive groves to right of picture
The French first line rushed back across the Portina and began to reform behind the second line. Of the four brigades in Sherbrooke's British 1st Division only General Cameron managed to keep his brigade on a short leash and stopped it just beyond the Portina.

The French second line gave the pursuing disordered British and KGL troops a tremendous volley and then charged them putting the two KGL brigades to rout and the Guards into a costly fighting withdrawal.

General de Division Latour-Maubourg
The French attack pressed forward and seemed unstoppable until challenged by Mackenzie's brigade of 3rd Division and Cotton's Light Dragoons, later supported by Wellesley sending in the 1/48th to succour the remains of the KGL as the survivors fell back.

An officer of the 48th recounted;
"A close and well directed fire from us arrested the progress of the French ... The leading files of the French halted, turned and fled back and never made another effort."

Endeavouring to urge his men to restart the advance General Lapisse was shot down. The collapse of Sebastiani's men to the south only contributed to breaking the will of the second line of French columns to attack and the leaderless division turned and fled back to its own lines.

Sebastiani's division paid a terrible price in this main attack with all four of its regimental commanders casualties, seven of the twelve battalion commanders and seventy other officers and 2,100 men killed or wounded, of whom sixty were prisoners.

In return The KGL brigades had suffered 1,000 casualties between them including 150 prisoners and the death of General Langwerth.

The last command stand to be finished to complete the three year project, General de Division Latour Maubourg with his ADC from the 2nd French Hussars

The twelve squadrons of the 2nd Dragoon Division in reserve

Opposite the Pajar de Vergara Position

As with the attack in the Northern Valley, the attack on the Pajar Vergara was designed very much as a pinning operation to prevent Anglo-Spanish troops in the area going to the aid of their comrades in the centre as the main French attack took place.

General de Division Leval's 2nd German Division, part of IVth Corps
The plan envisaged the 2nd German Division to attack slightly after the main attack went in, but the confusion and lack of visibility caused by the troops having to advance on the allied line through thick olive and cork tree woods caused them to advance more quickly than was intended and for their attack to go in ahead of the centre.

The German division with the yellow colours of the Nassau battalions and with the Dutch infantry to their front and Potocki's Poles to their rear. Beyond are the battalions of the Baden, Hesse Darmstadt and Frankfurt infantry
As described in the description of the allied position the German's attacked twice and were driven off twice losing Colonel von Porbeck in the first attack and around 600 men and about another 400 men in the second together with the colonels of the Baden and Frankfurt regiments not to mention three Baden and one Hesse Darmstadt guns captured and dragged back to the allied lines by the Spanish El Rey cavalry regiment.

General Potocki heads up his Polish infantry brigade with the German division artillery beyond
So that completes a review of the tabletop positions for our first game of Talavera 208 set to be played by the first group of players on the weekend 24th-25th June.

The collection is completed the table arranged and already the plans are coming together among the two sets of players; but of course the plan will change on first contact with the enemy and remembering that Clausewitzien pronouncement about 'warfare and games of cards', there are cards prepared to capture those events that so characterised this particular battle.

I am really looking forward to running this game and to play in the second next month and to bring you the AAR's describing the action amid pictures of all the fun. Not only that but the sense of satisfaction in doing that whilst making a difference for the great people at Combat Stress and the ladies and gentlemen they help really make this three year project even more worth while.

If you are looking forward to the first game then please make a contribution to the pot and help show what great things this hobby has to offer. Thank you to all those who have contributed so far.

Just Giving - Talavera 208

Cheers all


  1. Masterful preparations, Jonathan! Stunning game table.

    1. Hi Jonathan, thank you mate, I really appreciate your comments and your support throughout the work on this.

  2. What an achievement! It's been very inspiring to follow this project. Very impressive pace and its simply amazing to now see it all on the table after seeing posts of different single battalions etc. Enjoy the gaming ahead!

    1. Hi Mattias,
      Thank you, I am glad you have enjoyed the journey, I hope it inspires others to have a go at something similar. Skirmish gaming is great fun and I love it, but wargaming in the 'grand manner' is a bit special and well worth the effort.

  3. what a table! well done to all involved and thanks for sharing. Hard to see how anything could get better than this.

    1. Thanks Norm. The anticipation of looking forward to welcoming the chaps next weekend to play the fist game is a real thrill and I can't wait to get going and let you all know how it played.
      Lots to come

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you John, I hope the game will serve as an advert to the delights of 18mm Napoleonics combining the character of 28mm with the mass visual appeal of 10-6mm. I know you are exploring those delights yourself and the more players playing the scale will mean more great figure options for all of us.

  5. Replies
    1. Thank you Roger for this and your previous comments. It has been really nice to have the input from others as the collection has developed, so I hope you will enjoy the game reports to come.

  6. now that is an inspiration! great figures and great table

    1. Hi Colbourne, thank you, that is exactly the reaction I hoped to generate and encourage others in the hobby.
      All the best

  7. As you know I've watched this grow from the start - amazing to see it finished and ready to play, time to enjoy the fruits of your labours. I really admire you discipline in creating this, it's so far from my own "scatter-gun" approach to our vast 28mm collection! I've taken a leaf out of your book for our next project.
    Just donated, hope it helps.
    Have a great weekend, best wishes,

    1. Hi Jeremy,
      Thank you for your kind comments and your support throughout. It has been a pleasure swapping thoughts throughout this and previous projects and I know the passion we both share for the period and the hobby.
      I really appreciate you support for the charity, thanks mate. I'd love to hear your thoughts on ideas you are going to incorporate in your own collection and I know you have been putting together some lovely 28mm Peninsular War goodies.
      Keep on gaming and enjoy the summer now it seems to have arrived.

  8. Terrific to see all your miniatures on the table and the culmination of three year's work planning this out. They are only toys but you can almost sense the tension around the troops on the table as they wait for their big day. Great preamble to the day of battle!

    1. Hey Bill, thanks mate. I'm so pleased to hear someone voicing the feelings I get when gazing on those thin red lines and massed blue columns. You can almost hear the fifes and drums and smell the cordite.
      Glad you enjoyed the read; working my way around the table whilst researching the words of the chaps who walked that particular part of the ground seemed to me to add another level to the game. I know I will be hearing some of those memorable quotes in my mind whilst the chaps are playing. I must see if I can capture some of that immediacy in my own report of the game.
      All the best

  9. Replies
    1. Thank you Rupert.
      Well passion is in the title header for the blog and I reckon that's the emotion that keeps grown men like me playing with and painting these lovely toys in the first place so it seems perfectly natural to channel it into the detail of the history that underpins our hobby and I reckon we are of a similar mind.

  10. Replies
    1. Hi Mark, my pleasure and so pleased that you are enjoying the blog.

  11. Outstanding Jonathan, a completely different level of dedication to our hobby. Been great to see it all come together.

    1. Thanks Paul, it's been fun sharing the journey with fellow enthusiasts as yourself. Your own collection has been an inspiration for me and your blog was one of the ones that got me started on this stuff.

  12. Can't wait to see the culmination of all this research are hard work. Have regularly used your prep work to help plan our 28mm versions of these battles over the last three years. Thanks and enjoy.


    p.s who are the 23rd LD going to morph into after you finish Talavera?