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.

Saturday 14 June 2014

Campaign Battle 11: Crossing of the Orbigo

Crossing of the Orbigo, Mid-November 1808

General Situation: Marshal Soult, newly appointed commander of the Imperial II Corps, pursued Mahy's force towards their base at Astorga, hoping to capitalize on the ascendancy eventually gained by Bessieres over the Spanish Commander.  Mahy has reinforced the garrison at Astorga, his main supply depot and has then marched forwards to try and stop Soult's approach, or at least make him pay heavily for the attempt.

The Forces:

Imperial Forces:
II Corps (CinC Marshal Soult - Decisive)
Lasalle's Division: 1000 Cavalry, 6 Guns
Merle's Division: 7000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Mouton's Division: 7000 Infantry, 1000 Cavalry, 6 Guns,
Desolles' Division: 12000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Lefebevre-Desnouttes' Division: 4000 Infantry, 1000 Cavalry, 6 Guns
II Corps Artillery: 24 Guns
Totals: 30000 Infantry, 3000 Cavalry, 54 Guns

Spanish Forces:
Army of Galicia (CinC Gen Mahy - Plodding)
Maceda's Division: 2000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Cagigal's Division: 2000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Riquelme's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Portago's Division: 4000 Infantry, 30 Guns
March's Division: 1000 Cavalry, 6 Guns
Acevedo's Division: 8000 Infantry, 6 Guns


French at the bottom (East), Spanish at the top.  The French have Mouton's division to the left, then Desolles' Division, then Lefebevre-Desnouttes' Division then a grand battery.  Lasalle's division is next, then Merle's Division on the right.  The Spanish have Maceda's division guarding the bridge on their right, Cagigal's infantry and March's cavalry and Acevedo's division in reserve, Riquelme's division guard the central bridge and Portago's troops guard the northern bridge (top-right).

Soult decides to concentrate his main effort on the central bridge - the massed artillery will prepare the way for a direct assault over the bridge.
 First Moves:

Sometimes the answer to a tactical problem is a charge straight up the middle, commander at the front waving his hat.  Soult leads the infantry attack in person, as soon as the grand battery has shaken up the Spaniards of Riquelme's Division opposite and the bridge is taken.

Soult exploits his success, routing half of Portago's troops and advancing up the road.  Mahy desperately tries to get his reserves forward to stabilize the situation, whilst the rest of Lefebevre-Desnouettes's division comes up.

Mahy is able to bring Cagigal's troops towards the French left and reinforces Portago's troops with Acevedo's division and stabilizes the situation.
 The Struggle:

Mouton's attack on the southern bridge is easily beaten back by Maceda's infatry and guns. The Spanish artillery played upon the leading French troops with some effect during the course of the game.

Meanwhile, Soult has got more troops over the bridge.  However, Mahy has brought two brigades across from Portago's Division and Soult's troops are facing Spaniards on three flanks and, perhaps recklessly, Mahy is determined to counter-attack...
 The Crisis of the Battle:

The troops brought over from Portago's division attack the French with telling effect.  Riquelme's troops successfully charged the French guns, but were then defeated by the advance of more French infantry.  This infantry can be seen exploiting success (at the top of the screen), destroying some of Acevedo's raw levies.

Same position from a different angle.  The Spaniards have at least given the French something to think about, although the situation in the centre is parlous in the extreme.

Mahy leads a successful charge on the advanced French infantry in person and they are beaten, surrendering en masse!  Meanwhile, some of the French troops are hanging on to their bridgehead by their fingernails, whilst others have been thrown back over the bridge in confusion.  A battle that looked like an easy French victory after an hour is now looking likely to be an ignominious French defeat...

Mahy launches a co-ordinated attack on the French bridgehead.

After an incredibly bloody struggle, the French may have gained an improbable victory!  Soult, leading a regiment of French light infantry has routed twice their numbers of Spanish and is pursuing.  Their divisional commander (Portago) has become discouraged, possibly wounded in the fighting and has given the order to withdraw, uncovering the Spanish left!!  In the centre, the French have been fought out and are holding on for dear life.  Can reinforcements reach them before their imminent collapse...?  Unfortunately Soult's heroics have earnt him a musket ball into the flesh of his thigh and the French command is thrown into temporary confusion.
 The Victory!

A French victory! Soult's troops, reinforced with some brigades of Desolles', have fought off the deperate Spanish counter-attacks, both sides suffering heavy losses.  Although French morale was looking distinctly shaky and the remaining Spanish formation were in good heart, Mahy realized that the game was up and that he could not afford to risk the loss of his final two divisions (Maceda's and Acevedo's).  He used them to cover the withdrawal.  Note Merle's troops on the right of the picture about to cross the bridge unopposed.

Maceda's troops successfully disengage from Mouton's division.
 Result: Both sides suffered very heavy casualties, with the casualties even until the Spanish lost disproportionately heavily in the last couple of turns as many of their infantry surrendered .  The Spaniards have lost 8500 infantry, 750 cavalry and 24 guns (with an even split of casualties and prisoners), the Imperials 4100 infantry, 550 cavalry and 24 guns.  Luckily for Mahy, the French were in no condition to pursue, otherwise his command might have been destroyed in its entirety.

Game Notes: An absolutely thrilling game, one of the best I've played!  The shape of the game turned around two large errors of generalship on my part.  The Spanish position was compromised by mis-deployment: Riquelme's troops should have been on the stronger position on the Spanish right, whilst Maceda's veterans should have held the central position.  Soult exploited this ruthlessly and might have gained a victory in short order.  However, the French were then too aggressive, which allowed Mahy to pull off an extremely effective counter-attack.  The key moment of the game was the victory of the French legere over the previously successful troops of Portago's division - the morale roll was extremely tight, but the French held on and Portago threw in the towel, but this could easily have gone differently.  If Lefebevre-Desnoutte's formation had withdrawn, then the French would have almost certainly lost the battle: their tactical position would have been compromised, but more importantly there was a 66% chance that the French army's morale would have collapsed - presumably by the unsuspected ferocity of Spanish resistance!

It has been nice to get the campaign on the go again.  I don't think using single 60mm x 30mm bases looks as good as the paired bases for the brigade, but given the change in table space, I think it works well enough to persever with.  I just need a permanent place for my campaign map now...

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