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 2 December 2012

First Battle of the Peninsular Campaign - Battle of Canabrava

2nd January 1812:

On 01 Jan 1812, General Berwick, commanding the advance guard of Wellington's Anglo-Portuguese Army, encountered the 1st Division of Marshal Marmont's Army of Portugal, commanded by General de Division Renault, which had been watching the border.  Realising that this presaged an offensive by Wellington, the French commander deployed his forces at a point where the road passed through a line of hills, knowing a spirited defence, although ultimately hopeless, must give time for Marmont to concentrate for battle while disrupting the English general's plans.

Berwick knew that Wellington had not expected the French to defend this point, and has thus decided to force the French position as quickly as possible.  Both Allied and French losses are a secondary consideration, as time is currently the more important factor. 

The Forces:

Anglo-Portuguese C-in-C: Gen Sir William Berwick

1st Division: Maj-Gen Robson (Competent)
1st Brigade: 1/5 Northumberland, 3/27 Inniskillings, 1/52 Oxfordshire (Light Infantry), 55 Westmoreland
2nd Brigade: 1/4 King's Own, 1/43 Monmouthshire (Light Infantry), 1/61 South Gloucestershire, 1/92 (Gordon Highlanders)

2nd Division: Maj-Gen Charlton (Competent)
1st Brigade: 2 Queen's Royal, 68 Durham (Light Infantry), 2/92 (Gordon Highlanders)
3rd Brigade (1st Division): 2 Cacadores, 6 Line (1 Porto), 7 Line (Setubal), 8 Line (Evora), 22 Line (Serpa)

Cavalry Brigade: 9th Light Dragoons, 16th (Queen's) Light Dragoons

Artillery: 7 Coy/8 Bn RA (Lawson's) 6lb

French C-in-C: Gen Sauret

1st Division: Gen Renault (Competent)
1st Brigade: 1/28 Light, 1/32 Light
2nd Brigade: 1/113 Line, 2/113 Line, 3/113 Line
3rd Brigade: 1/116 Line, 1/119 Line, Irish Legion
Divisional Artillery: 1/1 Foot Artillery 8lb

Initial Set-Up:

Allies advancing from the South (bottom of the table) - most of the French are posted around the central hill, with two Light Bns in the woods close to the British left.
The British right - cavalry and infantry being opposed by a single French infantry unit (1/119 Line)

 A British brigade attacks the French light infantry in the woods while the remainder of the army advances:

The Portuguese advancing up the road towards the French centre

British infantry attacking the French light infantry in the woods - a volley from 2/92 Highlanders disrupts 1/32 Light.
 The British clear the French out of the wood despite the losses to the 2/92 Highlanders, but the French artillery delays the advance of the Portuguese:


The Highlanders have been forced back with heavy losses after an even better volley from the French! However, the 68th and the 2nd have driven off 1/28 Light and 1/32 Light has withdrawn to re-group.  This French brigade has had enough and begins to withdraw.
The French artillery positioned just off the road drives back the Portuguese infantry.  The British infantry on the right advance towards some steady-looking Frenchmen...
 Hard fighting as the British struggle to make progress in the centre and on the right:

The crisis of the battle approaches.  The Portuguese have finally got through the French artillery fire and are about to assault.  Note the red markers on the British right-hand unit: 1/119 Line has just seen off 1/52 Light with heavy losses...

Closer-in: the French have stopped 1/52 Light in its tracks, and have now withdrawn slightly to prevent 3/27 Inniskillings from bursting through a gap in the French defences
 The Portuguese attack eventually tells on the French defenders...just in time!

The Portuguese, though suffering some losses, are causing heavy losses and confusion in the French defenders: one more push lads!

Note that the French on the hill, although they have been shaken, have seen off their British attackers temporarily, then withdrawn to maintain the defensive line

The pressure finally tells - as the Portuguese rout 2/113 Line, the French troops are pushed back and their morale collapses - precipitate withdrawal the only option remaining.  The Portuguese have broken through, just in time.

Result of the Battle:
Although there had been moments when he had doubted that he could break the French defence in time, Berwick was satisfied with the results of the battle as the French resistance had broken within the two-and-a-half hours he had allotted for the task, and although some units had taken some casualties, no units had suffered severely and his Portuguese had had the honour of taking the French guns.  Sauret was left cursing his luck - although they had fought hard, his Light units threw in the towel at quite an early stage which left the morale of Renault's division quite brittle, and although the artillery and 113 Line had thrown back the opposition initially, half-an-hour of tough fighting resulted in heavy French casualties and a precipitate flight to the rear.  Wellington's way to Ciudad Rodrigo is clear and Marshal Marmont will not have the time to prevent him.

Notable Performances:
Portuguese: 8 Line***, 22 Line***
British: 68 Light*, 2/92 Highlanders*, 1/43 Light*, 1/5 Foot*, 1/92 Highlanders*, Lawson's RA*
French: 1/32 Light*, 1/113 Line*, 2/113 Line*, 3/113 Line*, 1/119 Line*, 1/1 Foot Art*

Broken Units:
French: 2/113 Line, 1/1 Foot Art

Units were given a chance with 1* = 1 'pip on a D6 chance of advancement.  So a unit with 3* had to roll 4-6 to gain a level of experience.  All broken units, if they rolled 1-3, would lose a level.  The results of this were:

22 Line promoted to Veteran

Commanders thought to have performed well were given the chance of advancement.  This was applied to Berwick and Charlton, with a 5-6 needed.  Charlton is now rated as 'Decisive'.  None of the commanders were deemed to have performed badly enough to have a chance of losing a grade.

Game Notes:
The game was played with the Polemos Napoleonics General de Division rules.  The scenario is based closely on the first one in Scenarios for All Ages
All troops were rated as Trained.  Light Infantry units were rated as SK2, all other infantry as SK1.  The Light Dragoon were rated as Light Cavalry.  The Allies had 10 moves to reach the end of the board - the French army's morale gave way at the end of turn 8.

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