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.

Friday 4 October 2013

Campaign Battle 04: Battle of Miranda

Battle of Miranda, Late July 1808

General Situation: Gen Blake's Army of Galicia has made a measured advance Eastwards from its starting base at Astorga towards the main French supply route to Madrid, that going from Bayonne via Vitoria and Burgos.  Bessieres' troops have withdrawn in the face of this pressure as the  Marshal tries to gain time for enough troops to concentrate to defeat the Spanish. As Bessieres could not concentrate enough troops to defend Burgos, he withdrew Northwards and his adversary, sensing weakness and a fleeting opportunity to battle the French II Corps at a numerical advantage, masked the small French garrison at Burgos and pursued him North, bringing him to battle to the Northwest of Miranda.

Forces Involved:
Spanish Army of Galicia (CinC Gen Blake) with 22000 Infantry and 48 Guns in four divisions (Cagigal's, Martinengo's, Riquelme's and Portago's)

French II Corps (CinC Marshal Bessieres) with 15000 Infantry and 54 Guns (Mouton's Division, Dorsenne's Imperial Guard Division, Lasalle's Cavalry Division, Corps' Reserve Artillery).

Starting Positions:
View of the starting dispositions from the North: Blake's troops are to the right (West), whilst Mouton's Division of Bessieres' Corps is defending the line of hills in the centre.  French Imperial Guards and Lasalle's cavalry are in reserve around the hills and farms below the town of Miranda.

View from behind Blake's troops looking towards the French positions (Cagigal's Division to the left, Riquelme's Division to the right)..

View from the Southeast - some Spanish troops from Portago's Division observe Miranda from the South.
 The Battle:

Spanish troops of Cagigal's Division have attacked on the Northern flank (bottom) as have Martinengo's in the centre but have been repulsed in both cases.  They are reforming for another go.

Ferocious artillery fire from both sides creates opportunity in the centre but the Spanish attack is repulsed once again.  The artillery from both nations was particularly effective in this part of the battlefield.

The Spanish attack on the centre is developing and you can see one of the French brigades retiring shaken from the combined effects of the Spanish artillery fire and infantry attack. Closer (further North) another Spanish division (Riquelme's) has deployed ready to assault the French centre on the other side of the highway.  However, where is Cagigal's division on the Northern Flank?

Here it is: cowering at the table edge in total disorder (red markers indicate 'shaken' units - with this many units shaken, the collapse of the division is almost inevitable), with French Dragoons (left) pursuing and about to capture the hindmost Spanish brigade.  The rest of the Spanish Division is 'spent' and is retiring from the battlefield at full speed.  With the Spanish reserve already committed in the centre, the position looks perilous for Blake...
 The Rearguard Action:

Blake hurriedly re-deploys his force in the centre to try and save the majority of his central divisions, in particular Riquelme's.  However, the French on the big Southern hill have finally prevailed against their Spanish opponents and have driven them across the stream, leaving the Spanish centre exposed and outflanked.

Situation as above, but with the Imperial Guard clearly visible at the bottom of the picture, beginning to outflank the Spanish rearguard brigade.

Lasalle can be seen pursuing the Spanish rearguard brigade, which Blake is personally commanding at this point.  The majority of the Spanish are getting away, but the Imperial Guard managed to overrun the majority of Blake's guns before this.

As well as the Spanish retreating along the highway, one can see that much of the other Spanish division (Martinengo's) has been driven from the table (just to the South of the highway) and its remaining brigades are also conducting a desperate rearguard). 
 Conclusion: Bessieres has gained a noteworthy victory over his opponent but the determined Spanish rearguard has prevented total collapse and the majority of the Army of Galicia has escaped to fight another day, although Lasalle's subsequent pursuit managed to pick up thousands of stragglers.  Bessieres' has regained the inititiative for the French, both locally and strategically, and when Merle's Division arrives, he is likely to be in a position to relieve Burgos and then try to catch and destroy Blake's retreating forces.

Bessieres' casualties were quite light - approximately 450 all told.  The Spanish losses were much heavier: approximately 2000 battle casualties with another 4000 or so prisoners.

Game Notes: A really enjoyable game.  I don't play Marechal... as much as the General de Division set in Polemos Napoleonics, so it was interesting to see the differences in action again.  The 'phased' combat in Marechal is genuinely exciting, as it can be quite a fine decision as to whether to continue any given combat or to 'stick' and hope that your troops have already done enough to win it (there is an outcome of combat phase, so it is possible, but unlikely, that your troops will get the better of the combat in terms of territory or casualties, but still lose by their morale dropping first).  The combats which resulted in the defeat of Cagigal's Division were quite finely poised but French boldness was handsomely rewarded!.  It is also noticeable how quickly attacks on narrow frontages can happen - and how quickly and far beaten forces can retreat!

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