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.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Campaign Battle 10: Storming of Astillero

Storming of Astillero, Late October 1808

General Situation: Joseph Napoleon, in at least nominal command of the French Army of Spain, noted that Acevedo's division of Mahy's Army of Galicia, after its successful taking of Santander earlier in the month, was exposed and unsupported.  Resolving to strike a quick blow against this formation, Joseph and the divisions of Imperial and Royal guards, showing surprising speed, approached Santander.  Acevedo, not wanting to be trapped in the town, fought a delaying action to the South, without much hope that his recruits would stand for long before the Imperial veterans.

The Forces:

Imperial Forces:
Army of Spain (CinC Joseph, advised by Jourdan - Competent)
Dorsenne's Division: 3000 Imperial Guardsmen, 1000 Imperial Guard Light Cavalry, 6 Guns
Saligny's Division: 3000 Royal Guardsmen, 1000 Royal Guard, Light Cavalry, 6 Guns
Totals: 6000 Infantry, 2000 Cavalry, 12 Guns

Spanish Forces:
Acevedo's Division of the Army of Galicia (CinC Gen Acevedo - Competent)
Acevedo's Division: 9000 Infantry, 6 Guns

Initial Deployment:

Deployment, viewed from the South.  French are nearest,with the Imperial Guards to the left and Royal Guards to the right.  The Spaniards are ranged across the heights, with their right flank anchored by the two battalions in the village.

The First Blow:

The French struck on their left first: a textbook assault on the village.  One of the Spanish light infantry units - their best in this battle - was defending it, supported by a battalion of conscripts.  The guardsmen resisted their inclination to assault until the Imperial artillery took effect, at which moment the French took the village at bayonet point and routed the Spanish defenders.  The French Guard Light Cavalry are outflanking the Spanish left in the background.
The Second Blow:

Joseph's Guards advancing on the right.  The infantry never got to grips with their opponents, but the cavalry of the Royal Guard charged straight in.  Two-thirds of the Spanish conscripts facing them were routed, but the battalion on the extreme Spanish left (right of shot) faced down the attack with great coolness and stopped a couple of squadrons with their volley fire.  However, the Spanish brigade commander lost confidence and ordered a retreat anyway.

Same position, seen from behind the repulsed cavalry of the Royal Guard.  The victorious cavalry is on the lower slopes of the hill, the retreating Spanish infantry on the far side. At this point Acevede, with both of his flanks turned, ordered a general retreat and successfully disengaged his remaining units without further loss.

Result: The Spanish lost just over 2,000 men as a result of this action, divided roughly evenly between dead and wounded, prisoners and conscripts deserting in the immediate aftermath.  French losses were around 300, split between the Imperial Guard infantry (Fusiliers-Chasseurs) and the cavalry of the Royal Guard.  Acevedo withdrew to the West and once again the Imperials were left in control of Santander.

Game Notes: Another small battle, with the result never in too much doubt, as veteran-elite infantry take some stopping by raw conscripts in the Polemos rules.  I do wonder if in fact the Polemos rules - and many others - exaggerate the importance of morale and training compared to the dynamics of individual situations.  It is difficult to be sure, however.  Regardless, the main Spanish hope was that Joseph would do something stupid.  Athough the cavalry attack was bold the odds still favoured them, and the Imperial Guard infantry attack on the village was a textbook example of infantry and artillery co-operation to prise defenders out of a strongpoint.

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