Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life; currently concentrating on a re-fight of the entire Peninsular War, but with the odd foray into ancient, medieval and WW2 battles.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Campaign Battle 06: Battle of Melgar

Battle of Melgar, Late August 1808

General Situation: Bessieres has wasted no time after relieving Burgos and is again in pursuit of Blake's Army of Galicia.  Again, the Imperials' cavalry superiority has helped force the Spanish into an engagement, this time in a pass heading west towards Leon from the direction of Burgos.  Blake can no longer run, so he has prepared himself to fight in a reasonbly strong position, reinforced as he is by Trias' Division.

The Forces:

Imperial Forces:
II Corps (CinC Bessieres - Decisive)
Imperial Guard Division: 3000 Infantry, 1000 Light Cavalry
Lasalle's Division: 1000 Light Cavalry
Merle's Division: 9000 Infantry
Mouton's Division: 12000 Infantry, 1000 Dragoons
Artillery: 48 Guns
Totals: 24000 Infantry, 3000 Cavalry, 48 Guns

Spanish Forces:
Army of Galicia (CinC Gen Blake - Competent)
Maceda's Division: 1500 Infantry, 1000 Light Cavalry
Cagigal's Division: 4500 Infantry
Martinengo's Division: 3000 Infantry
Portago's Division: 4500 Infantry
Riquelme's Division: 6000 Infantry
Trias' Division: 4500 Infantry
Artillery:  60 Guns
Totals: 24000 Infantry, 1000 Cavalry, 60 Guns

Set-Up:

Deployment: View from the South.  Merle's Division is bottom right, facing the Spanish from Martinengo's Division on the hill at the bottom left, with Portago's Division in the gap.

View from behind the French: Imperial Guard, a grand battery and Lasalle's Cavalry in the centre facing Spanish from Cagigal's Division.  Spanish C-in-C Blake is on top of the central hill.

View from behind the Spanish:Trias' Division on the hill to the left and Riquelme's units face the mass of Mouton's troops.
 The First Attacks:

Merle's division on the French extreme left advances to come to grips with Martinengo's infantry defending the hill; meanwhile the Spanish achieve first blood by breaking a brigade of Mouton's Division after blake in person leads a brigade from Cagigal's Division in a charge down the hill.
Mouton's masses advance towards Riquelme's infantry, whilst fire from the French grand battery disrupts Cagigal.
 French Successes and Bold Spanish Strokes:

Merle's Division destroyed Martinengo and took the hill; Blake reinforces Portago's Division with the Spanish reserve (Maceda's Division) to try and re-establish a defensible line on the Spanish right flank.

However, on the Spanish left a bold counter-attack by Trias' division (bottom centre) has pushed Mouton's flanking units back (bottom left) and has outflanked Mouton's main body (massed in the centre), causing it to abandon its attack on Riquelme.  Imperial Guardsmen have been repulsed in their first assault on the cerro in the Spanish centre - they reform and prepare for a second go...
 Spanish Counter-Attack:
Fearing for his right (top left in picture), Blake orders a bold counter-stroke and advances his line against Mouton!  Cagigal's Division routs the French brigade facing it and threatens the grand battery, while Riquelme advances.  Mouton's dragoons charge Trias' Division (far right)...but the Spanish hold!  Things look a bit grim for Mouton...
 French Triumphant!

The same moment from the opposite side: Merle is pushing back Portago and Maceda, whilst the Imperial Guard are almost ready to resume their assault (note the stockpile of blue Tempo points)

This time the Imperial Guardsmen carry the cerro in the centre, rout the Spanish and at this moment the Spanish C-in-C, General Blake, is killed by a shot from one of the Fusilier-Chasseurs! Gen Mahy from Blake's staff assumes command and depite the success of the Spanish left, reckons that the Spanish Right must collapse and orders a general withdrawal.  After the Imperial Guard troops reform, they break Maceda's infantry and his Cavalry turn tail, but the rest of the Spanish troops successfully break contact (position as seen in the photo).

Conclusion:
A hard-fought French victory, in which the successes of Merle and Dorsenne's Guardsmen just outweighed the Spanish successes of Trias' and Cagigal's men against Mouton.  Although the Spanish lost only slightly more during the battle than the French (four brigades routed against three), Lasalle's cavalry, carefully husbanded, took 3,000 prisoners in a difficult Spanish escape post-battle.Overall, the French took about 1900 casualties, the Spanish about 4950 (the vast majority amongst the infantry of both sides). Bessieres now faces a difficult decision: it is likely that Mahy will withdraw further, should he pursue and risk being pulled away from the vital Bayonne-Burgos-Madrid line when the Spanish Armies of Andalusia and Valencia are likely to be soon chasing Moncey back towards Madrid?  Or should he keep up the pressure on Mahy hoping for that truly decisive victory which has so far proved elusive?

Game Notes:
A realy good Polemos Marechal d'Empire game this.  Although sharing many mechanics, the 'Marechal...' experience is quite different from General de Division.  MdE seems to favour bold attacks, whereas in GdD your troops are asking for it unless you carefully prepare attacks.  The 'phased' combat system of MdE also provides some interesting decisions: in Blake's successful charge, initially the French had the upper hand but they chose to continue the fight, the pendulum swung and Blake was ultimately victorious.  The French chould perhaps have been content with holding him off and breaking off the combat (that French brigade has only been intended to observe the cerro rather than attack it).  A rush of blood perhaps!

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