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, 6 August 2016

Campaign Battle 23: The Battle of Arevalo

The Battle of Arevalo, early July 1809

General Situation: Elio, who had retreated in the face of Moncey's surprise advance from the main French concentration area near Salamance towards the northern passes to Madrid, decided that he needed to resume his advance and threaten the French line of communication with Burgos and risk battle to achieve that objective.  Moncey, who had thought his aggressive move had been sufficient to restore the French situation, was surprised and perturbed to hear of Elio's advance and quickly moved to occupy a defensive position.  He was determined to hold on at all costs, as defeat would probably imply a retreat for the entire Army of Spain as far as Burgos, if not France itself...

Orders of Battle:

The Imperial Army

III Corps - Marshal Moncey

Clauzel's Division: 3000 infantry, 6 guns
Vandermaes' Division: 4000 infantry, 6 guns
Foy's Division: 2000 infantry, 6 guns
Merle's Division: 4000 infantry, 6 guns
Merlen's Brigade: 1000 cavalry
Corps Artillery: 24 guns

Totals: 13000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, 48 guns

The Spanish Army

IV Army - General Elio

Anglona's Division: 6000 infantry, 6 guns
Henestrosa's Division: 6000 infantry, 6 guns
San Roman's Division: 4000 infantry, 6 guns
Mendizabal's Division: 5000 infantry, 6 guns
Loy's Division: 3000 cavalry, 6 guns
O'Donoghue's Brigade: 1000 cavalry

Totals: 21000 infantry, 4000 cavalry, 30 guns

The Deployment:

 
View from the East: Spanish to the left, French to the right


A wide shot from behind the Spanish lines.  Loy's Cavalry Division is out of shot to the left, then Anglona's Division in checkerboard columns, Henestrosa's Division in the centre, Mendizabal's Division to the right.  On the French side, Merle's Division is just south of the river (top left), there is a grand battery across the road, Clauzel's Division is next to the grand battery and Vandermaes' Division is to the top-right.  Foy's Division is further right still (not seen). Merlen's Cavalry is in the rear of the French position.
Loy's Division in dead ground behind a hill, overlooking Merle's Division.
The Battle:

Elements of Henestrosa's and Anglona's Divisions advance; French artillery fire causes severe disruption in the centre

On the Spanish right, Mendizabal and San Roman's troops advance in stately fashion towards the French left-hand corps


Mendizabal's leading brigade prepares to assault Vermaesen's men


Clauzel leads a spoiling attack at the head of his light infantrymen: Mendizabal's left-hand brigade is routed!


However Mendizabal's leading brigade has pushed back Vermaesen's troops

Henestrosa, showing great élan at the head of his troops, punches a while in the French centre, overruning half the French artillery!

Clauzel led his counter-attack into the depth of the Spanish position, when a shot from a Spanish musket killed him.  The Spanish are under severe pressure in this part of the field and barely hang on...

Luckily for the Spanish, the C-in-C personally leads a counterattack into the flank of the French brigade, which is almost surrounded and severely shaken

A see-saw battle between Vandermeas' troops and Mendizabal's continues - both have lost another battalion

Moncey himself leads Clauzel's other brigade in a counter-attack and drives back some of Henestrosa's units.  Henestrosa and his leading brigade look sorely exposed (top, facing the French cavalry)

Hard fighting, reinforcements and the collapse of the rest of Clauzel's division persuade this brigade to retreat from the battle too - there is now a large gap in the French centre


General Foy suddenly goes onto the offensive, hoping to turn the Spanish right and divert attention away from the gap in the French centre; San Roman's units have been thrown back with heavy losses


Merle also attempted a counter-attack on the opposite flank.  Here the Spanish resistance was much stouter and the French have come off worst.  One Frnech battalion is broken and others have suffered severely.

Showing great determination, the disordered French troops manage to put in sufficient effective musketry to defeat the Spanihs riposte!

Foy leads two battalions onwards, routing more Spaniards and disordering others.  However, (top-right) some Spanish units have put in a very effective counter-attack

The combination of Hensetrosa and Anglona has swept away Merle from the enclosures

The French right is shattered and broken

...as have the units on the French left, all three remaining divisions collapsing more-or-less simultaneously

Loy's troopers were barely involved...and are thus fresh, ready for the pursuit!

View from the right at the end of the battle.
Outcome:

A reasonably sanguinary battle for the Spanish, but a true horror story for the French: the fresh Spanish cavalry were able to really hurt the defeated French forces in the post-battle pursuit.  The Spanish lost c.3500, almost entirely from the infantry and mainly from Mendizabal's forces which had two distinct hard fights.  The French lost c.7300, over 4000 of them in the pursuit, in addition to 30 guns.  General Clausel fell at the head of his troops, on the point of achieving an unlikely victory:

This result is likely to have the most profound consequences and there is no time for Moncey to rue the outcome of the battlefield.  He has no cavalry and his infantry are shattered: does he withdraw northwards to safety but leave the Army of Spain with Elio's army on its lines of communications with Wellington at its front?  But will the situation be even worse if he marches westwards back towards the Army of Spain.  A sleepless night to follow a bloody day for the unfortunate Marshal...

Game Notes:
A good, tight game which just might have gone to the French.  The first crisis was only resolved because of the unfortunate death of poor Clauzel at the critical moment robbed the very successful French spoiling attack of its impetus.  The second crisis was survived because every Spanish brigade held on, in some difficult circumstances.  In no individual case was a Spanish brigade more likely to break than not, but it was much more likely than not that at least one Spanish brigade would.  As it was, once Clauzel's division was broken, then it was only a matter of time before the Spanish would exploit their better position and numerical strength to overcome the (marginally) more skillful French troops.
It is noticeable that as the campaign progresses and the Spanish have suffered rather fewer disasters than their historical counterparts, the Spanish armies are becoming relatively much stronger and more capable than their historical counterparts.  Many Spanish divisions are approaching the quality levels of their opponents.  Conversely, many French divisions are at 1811-12 levels of ability rather than 1809-10 levels.
Once again, the Tomb for an Empire campaign rules provide a powerful incentive to not use cavalry in the battle but save it for the post-battle pursuit: the fresh Spanish cavalry effectively doubled the size of French losses.
I discovered I have been making a small mistake in the distribution of losses after a pursuit.  As the rule would have materially affected the way I approached this battle, I will implement it from the next engagement.  I still need to sort out the artillery! Moncey seemed to have far too much. Not that it did him much good in the end, and he did lose it all..
As ever, Polemos General de Division gave a very good game. The game did bring up what I dislike most about the rules though: the occasional clash of rules with no idea how to resolve them.  Here, it was the situation of what happens if a unit, which must pursue for 1BW after breaking its opponents, contacts another enemy unit or approaches within 1BW (which wouldn't normally be allowed)?  I have personal answers for this kind of thing, which I have either got from the forum or just given myself a common-sense ruling, but it is the kind of thing which causes interruptions in the flow of the game.
This is the first game I have played using one of my new home-made terrain mats. I tried to make this one reminiscent of the drier, browner look to many parts of the Peninsular.  I was quite pleased with how it turned out!  Otherwise, as usual, figures from Baccus 6mm and buildings from Total Battle Miniatures.  Game played solitaire on a 5'x3' table and took about two-and-a-half hours of play.

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