Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Sunday 26 January 2014

Campaign Battle 07: The Crossing of the Ucieza

The Crossing of the Ucieza, Early September 1808

General Situation: Bessieres is continuing his pursuit of the Army of Galicia, now under the command of Gen Mahy.  Mahy's troops were trying to gain some respite at Plasencia, but on the approach of the the Imperial II Corps, has moved North to oppose its crossing of the Ucieza river to the North.  Bessieres has reconnoitred the Spanish position and improvised a pontoon crossing during the night, ready for a crossing at dawn...

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: 7500 Infantry
Mouton's Division: 9000 Infantry, 1000 Dragoons
Artillery: 48 Guns
Totals: 19500 Infantry, 3000 Cavalry, 48 Guns

Spanish Forces:
Army of Galicia (CinC Gen Mahy - Plodding)
Maceda's Division: 1500 Infantry, 1000 Light Cavalry, 12 Guns
Cagigal's Division: 3000 Infantry, 12 Guns
Martinengo's Division: 1500 Infantry
Portago's Division: 7500 Infantry, 12 Guns
Riquelme's Division: 6000 Infantry, 24 Guns
Trias' Division: 3000 Infantry

Totals: 22500 Infantry, 1000 Cavalry, 60 Guns

The Set-Up:

The battlefield with the Spanish deployed.  The Spanish units are deployed as follows: Trias on the hills to the left (as viewed in the picture), Cagigal's division on the left-hand side bridge, Portago's Division in reserve to the left rear, Martinengo's small division in the centre, Macedo's Advance Guard in reserve on the centre hill and Riquelme's division guarding the right.  Bessieres was free to set up a pontoon crossing at any point he chose.
Bessieres decided to attack on the left (South), aiming to simultaneously outlank the main Spanish position and cut off Trias' division on the hill.  Mouton's large division was first to cross, with the Imperial Guard and Lasalle's cavalry in reserve to the rear.  Merle's division was tasked with guarding the bridges and pinning the Spanish left (to the right of the picture).

 The Initial Attack:
Mouton's Division advances across the pontoon* and splits Trias' from the rest of the Army of Galicia.  The Spanish reserves are moving towards the spot, both Portago's and Macedo's units (n.b. The black counter at the bottom of the picture indicates that the French artillery there is silenced for a turn.  The initial performances of both the French and Spanish artillery in the early stages of this affair was incredibly dismal, doing more damage to themselves through fatigue and pointless ammunition expenditure than to the enemy!)

Mouton's division continues, but the Spanish are massing ready for a two-sided assault...
 The Spanish Assault:
The French mostly held their own, but crucially Macedo's column destroyed the French unit immediately to the West of the pontoon, thus cutting off the remainder Mouton's division from the East bank and the support of the French reserves.  The French artillery near the bridge has found its range (finally!) and is starting to inflict casualties on Portago's division.  Martinengo's small division may be seen moving on the road, Mahy intends to use it to shore up the Spanish right from Mouton's turning movement.

Same position as seen from the rear of Trias' division located on the hill.  The Spanish flags clearly show the Spanish in position of the Western side of the pontoons.  Mouton's units have started to face to both flanks to face the impending Spanish attacks.

The Crisis of the Battle:

The Imperial Guard units re-take the western end of the pontoon bridge and destroy Macedo's division into the bargain, re-establishing a route to Mouton's leading brigades.  Note the staggered effect of Portago's units; this is caused by the effective fire of the French artillery.  This involuntary widening of Portago's formation progressively slows its advance.

Attrition is telling on the heart of Mouton's division - two more brigades have been lost by this point.  Mouton's leading regiments are now in  position to turn the Spanish left (they are the units in the fields by the house), now opposed by Martinengo's small division.

French defeat!

Mouton's light infantry attacking out of the fields destroyed Martinengo's division and Portago's units began to show signs of disorder...the Spanish right was wavering.  But a final Spanish assault on Mouton's units broke them and in turn the whole division, most of which now no longer had an escape route and were forced to capitulate.  The Imperial Guard, after an initial repulse, were across but too late...

Mahy reformed his defence and Mouton had to consider whether to launch a full-scale attack with his Imperial Guard.  the odds were against it however and realizing that a reckless assault now might lead to the destruction of his entire Corps, elected to end the battle.  The Spanish, with no unbroken cavalry, were in no position to pursue.
A clear and outright Spanish victory to resume the campaign.  French casualties were in excess of 5,000, including many prisoners from the shattered brigades of Mouton's division, which was a galling fate for his lead units which had performed so well in turning the Spanish right.  Bessieres was clearly right to call off the action, as the chances for the decisive success which had inspired him to seek another battle against the Army if Galicia in the first place had gone.  Bessieres plan was simply too bold and he was punished accordingly, although he wasn't blessed with much luck, continually losing the initiative to Mahy for a succession of key turns.  On balance, a more central crossing point might have served him better, or a more defensive outlook after crossing.  Either way, this probably marks the end of Bessieres' pursuit of the Army of Galicia - both sides will have to take stock and decide if either can risk resuming the offensive unless they are reinforced.

Game Notes:
A suitably intense game of MdE to re-start my campaign.  Some of the mechanics were quite tricky to implement in this battle, because of the unusual dynamics of the attacks of the Spanish on both sides of the French 'corridor'.  I'm not sure I got every call correctly, but hopefully it was 'about right'.  And as a soloist, I only have to please myself...
I do think that it can be more difficult to sort this kind of thing out with element-based games compared to individual or sub-unit basing systems however, as the larger bases seem to interact with each other in more complicated ways.  I may ask the author Chris Grice a couple of clarifying questions on the yahoo group so that I will know for next time!

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