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.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Campaign Battle 15: The Battle of Bejar

The Battle of Bejar, mid-January 1809

General Situation: The French Corps continue their pursuit of the Anglo-Spanish forces as they retreat westwards.  Napoleon has departed the Peninsula, leaving command of the pursuit to King Joseph and his military advisor Marshal Jourdan, whom the French Corps commanders are but little inclined to obey.  However, although absent from the battlefield himself, Jose has at least managed to get the main French forces into contact with Wellington and Castanos' troops near the town of Bejar.  Just as Marchand was let down by badly by neighbouring forces at the end of 1808, now it is Wellington and Castonos' turn to feel isolated, as not a single one of the adjacent divisions responded to Wellington's appeals in time - including his main cavalry reserve!  Wellington and Castanos were on their own...

The Forces:

Imperial Forces (no C-in-C, the three French Corps acted independently).

IV Corps (CinC - Lefebvre (Plodding))
Sebastiani's Division: 3000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Leval's Division: 4000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Artillery Reserve: 24 Guns

V Corps (CinC - Mortier (Capable))
Suchet's Division: 9000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Gazan's Division: 9000 Infantry, 6 Guns
De Laage's Cavalry Brigade: 1000 Cavalry
Artillery Reserve: 24 Guns

VI Corps (CinC - Ney (Decisive))
Bisson's Division: 7000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Maransin's Division: 8000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Mermet's Division: 7000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Colbert's Brigade: 1000 Cavalry
Artillery Reserve: 24 Guns

Anglo-Portuguese Forces (C-in-C Wellington (Decisive))
Anstruther's Division: 9000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Spencer's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Baird's Division: 12000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Artillery Reserve: 36 Guns

Army of Andalusia (C-in-C Castanos (Capable))
Venegas' Division: 5000 Infantry, 1000 Cavalry, 6 Guns
Espana's Division: 1000 Infantry, 1000 Cavalry, 18 Guns

The Deployment:


The west of the Battlefield: Anglo-Portuguese forces at the bottom (South) facing Imperial forces approaching from the top (North).  Anstruther is on the allied left, then Spencer's troops are at the right-edge of the stream, Baird is furthest back in the centre.  Mortier's V Corps is at the top-left, Ney's VI Corps is at the top-right.

The east of the battlefield: Castanos's two divisions (bottom) face Lefebvre's Imperial IV Corps.

Closer-up of Castanos and Venegas' Division facing Sebastiani's troops (left), a grand battery of IV Corps artillery (centre) and Leval's Germans (right).

The Battle: 

The initial fighting on the allied left - Anstruther's troops did waver as Gazan's veteran infantry attacked supported by a large concentration of artillery, but the British 'reverse-slope' tactics proved successful and Anstruther held on...just.

Ney's VI Corps, with Bisson's Division in the lead, march down the main road: 12 Allied guns and a brigade of redcoats are in position to stop them.

Lefebvre leads his IV Corps (quite small, after recent losses) towards Venegas' Division on the French left.

Castanos brings up his reserves as the direction of Lefebvre's advance becomes clear.


This perhaps doesn't look like a key moment, but this moment actually defined the whole battle.  Ney, at the head of Bisson's leading brigade, had been originally planned to deploy here, subject the Allied centre to a crushing artillery bombardment and then attack.  However, with Wellington's attention firmly pinned to his left, Ney decided to risk a hasty attack with the aim of splitting the Allied armies.  Baird has already brought up some of his reserves to face the threat.

Lefebvre's twist: rather than attack Venegas' main position, he swerves Sebastiani's troops to try and hit the join between Venegas' and Espana's troops. 

Back to the Allied Left: Anstruther's left-hand brigades resist Suchet's attack: note the red 'shaken' markers around the Imperial units...

And Lefebvre gets closer...

Close-up of Anstruther's position under pressure from Suchet (left) and Gazan (right).

A battle of two halves: Sebastiani's Division has broken Venegas' left-hand brigade and captured Espana's artillery; but Castanos has led a charge which has broken Leval's German Division and captured a large part of IV Corps' artillery!  Lefebvre's Corps is hors de combat, Castanos keeps a grip on his troops by the narrowest margin.


Ney has concentrated Bisson's two strong brigades and is ready to assault, the British make ready to receive.

Ney, sword in hand, forces one of the British brigades and its supporting artillery back...the Allied line is wavering. 

Same position, with a bit wider view - note the shaken British infantry in the wood.


A charge by Anstruther's troops on the left forces Suchet's troops back in considerable disorder after a very stiff fight: Suchet's troops retreat from the field.

Ney brings more troops up (from Maransin's Division) but the breakthrough remains elusive and Wellington has arrived to take control of the situation in person.

Mortier launches a surprise assault with Gazan, routing a brigade of British infantry and capturing half of Anstruther's guns: the remaining Anglo-Portuguese just will not be shifted from their ridge however and Gazan is forced to pull back with loss.

The position at the effective end of the battle.  One of Bisson's brigade has been broken by an attack in its flank after its last attempt to fight forward was repulsed.  With Lefebvre's Corps in tatters, Mortier's Corps only fit to defend and superior numbers convering on Ney, Ney declined to press home a further assault and withdrew.  Wellington and Castanos were content to harry rather than make a significant push for decisive victory and the remaining Imperials escaped without serious further loss.

Results:  The Allies lost about 3500 infantry, slighly more British than Spanish, and 24 guns in the battle, which were however recovered on the field, abandoned by the French.  The French lost around 9700 men (including over 5000 prisoners) and the same number of guns, which weren't however recovered.  Luckily for the French, their cavalry had not been engaged during the battle and the absence of the British cavalry reserve meant that they were not pursued effectively from the battlefield.

This victory looks like the end of the French attempt to catch and destroy Wellington in Spain: by the time units are rested and further formations arrive, Wellington and Castanos are likely to be clean away.

Game Notes:

 My conception of the battle from the French point of view was to demonstrate on both flanks while Ney' Corps advanced into the centre, set up a grand battery to pound the centre of the Allied position and then assault it with veteran troops whilst weakened.  Naturally if the Allies weakened their flanks to support the centre, Ney would then pin the Allies and Mortier and Lefebvre would attack instead.  I think this was a reasonably sound concept of operations...which I then proceded to abandon when Ney decided to attack on the hoof.  Mortier gave Ney the best chance by launching an attack with Suchet's decision which kept Wellington to far left and Ney, for a couple of turns, looked likely to punch a hole in the centre.  However, a mixture of Allied luck and skill gave them the victory.  The French seemed to do very well in individual combats, but roll very badly for outcome and morale roles, so even when it looked as if they were about to gain an advantage, it proved an illusion.  It was a really exciting game, lasting about 15 or so turns (so 5 hours of battle time).






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