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 19 September 2014

Campaign Battle 12: Battle of the Duero

Battle of the Duero, Mid-December 1808

General Situation: Three French Corps (Moncey's, Lefebvre's and Marchand's) were concentrated around Valladolid, facing the Spanish armies of Castanos and Cervellon and the British Army under Moore.  A period of protracted maneouvring took place, with both sides trying to gain a positional advantage to concentrate their entire force against some portion of their enemy's.  However, with the remainder of the Imperial forces continuing their march southwards, the onus was on the Allies to precipitate action or withdraw.  The Allied forces advanced with Castanos in the lead, supported by Moore and Cervellon to try and attack Lefebevre to the East of Valladolid or Marchand nearer the city.  Marchand, seeing the opportunity to catch the Allies seized the initiative and marched to the south to attack, appealing to his fellow Marshals for help.  However in an unfortunate example of inter-Marshal acrimony and lethargy, Lefebevre refused to help at all whilst Moncey sent only the two divisions nearest (Barbou's and Wathier's).  Marchand, with his strong veteran corps, was left to come to grips to Castanos almost alone: could he destroy the Spaniard's army before Moore could succour him?  The other spanish army was too far away to reach the battlefield in time.

The Forces:

Imperial Forces:
I Corps (CinC General Marchand - Plodding)
Ruffin's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Villatte's Division: 7000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Lapisse's Division: 8000 Infantry, 1000 Cavalry, 6 Guns,
Beaumont's Brigade: 1000 Cavalry
Treillard's Division: 3000 Cavalry, 6 Guns
I Corps Artillery: 24 Guns

III Corps formations:
Barbou's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Wathier's Brigade: 1000 Cavalry

Totals: 27000 Infantry, 5000 Cavalry, 48 Guns

Spanish Forces:
Army of Andalusia (CinC Gen Castanos - Capable)
Venegas' Division: 5000 Infantry, 1000 Cavalry, 6 Guns
Coupigny's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Reding's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Espana's Division: 3000 Infantry, 1000 Cavalry, 18 Guns
Jones' Division: 4000 Infantry, 6 Guns

Anglo-Portuguese Forces:
The British Army (CinC Gen Moore - Decisive)
Anstruther's Division: 9000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Spencer's Division: 7000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Hope's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Baird's Division: 9000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Paget's Division: 3000 Cavalry, 6 Guns
Artillery Reserve: 36 Guns
Loyal Lusitanian Legion: 3000 Infantry, 6 Guns

Allied Totals: 57000 Infantry, 5000 Cavalry, 114 Guns

The Set-Up:

Position from behind the Spanish centre.  Unfortunately the other deployment photographs were just unuseable, but this one show Espana's Division occupying the hill in the Spanish centre.  The right-hand elements of Reding's Division are in the field at the left, whilst Coupigny's Division is just off the picture to the right.  Venegas' Division is further back on the road in reserve, Jones' Division back and left.  Opposite Espana can be seen Lapisse's Division, supported by Treillard's Dragoons.  Villatte's troops are to the left (i.e. the French right), supported by Beaumont's troopers, whilst Ruffin's Disivion is on the other flank.

 First French Assault:

Villatte's Division breaks Reding's right-hand brigades, creating a gap between Spanish centre and left.  Castanos is compelled to bring Jones' infantrymen in to contain the advance.
Lapisse's Infantry do just as well, breaking Espana's left-hand brigade.  Venegas advances in support, but all the Spanish reserves have now been committed!  Marchand's plans are going extremely well: the veteran French units appear unstoppable...

A close-up of the same incident.

Same situation, with Venegas' column in the foreground.  The leading brigade is shaken as a result of Espana's units rushing past.

Further French Success on their right!  Ruffin's troops assault across the stream in textbook fashion and Coupigny's defence looks to be in tatters...and there are no Spanish reserves to help him!  Where is Sir John Moore??

The Spanish brigades have fought vigorously, but there is no stopping the veteran French infantry led by their skirmisher swarms.  Note the broken Spanish brigade running away in the foreground and the shaken left-hand brigade.
"I had lost the battle at twelve..."

The remnants of Espana's Division hang on grimly to their portion of the hill!  The Spanish artillerymen make life difficult - sometime impossible! - for the French infantry contesting it.  But another French wave is approaching...

It is a grim fight, but the French veterans appear to gave got the upper hand.  Espana's Division has thrown back another assault, however!

Lapisse victorious...?  The last Spanish gun has been captured, but still Espana's remaing two brigades fight on!  Venegas simply cannot get up that hill to support him.

Same position, but this time showing that the French infantry have now cut-off Espana's remnants entirely.  Coupigny's forces have regrouped into another battle-line to resist Ruffin.
 "...but won it back again at three!!" - the British arrive

Sir John Moore's army arrives on the French right flank.  Can he intervene decisively before the final Spanish collapse in the centre and right?

View from behind Reding's remnants.  Note that Beaumont's troopers have turned to face the oncoming British, and the massed British guns ready to batter the French right.
The British cavalry charge, huzzah!  The French right is in a terrible muddle...

And then routs and is gone!  Marchand forms another line to try and stabilize the situation.  But he can't be everywhere at once and his attack on the centre has stalled as he is forced to defend himself against this new threat.
Espana's Division has finally been defeated by the French, but Venegas remains to plug the gap.  Meanwhile, the massed redcoats are arriving from the left to succour the centre and exploit the success against the wilting French right, although Reding's surviving infantry can be seen too, acting against the French artillery.

Venegas and Lapisse square-off on the central hill.
 The Allied Victory:

A combined assault by Spanish and British infantry force the French light infantry out of the the farm enclosure, whilst Anstruther's and Reding's brigades push the French right back on the centre.  At this point, the morale of Villatte's troops collapsed.  The French reinforcements actually arrived at this point but Marchand declined to bring them on, feeling that they were strong enough to add to the extent of the defeat but not strong enough to avert it.  As Barbou's troops were exclusively raw recruits, he may well have had a point.
The French rearguard under pressure.  Ruffin's troops break-off ocntact cleanly, as Coupigny's troops had already withdrawn themselves (on the Spanish right).

Sir John Moore, at the head of his light infantry, defeats the remaining French infantry in the centre after a fierce fight (they had resisted two assaults from the Spanish and British troops in the foreground already) and Lapisse's division is broken.  The remainder of the French troops have escaped already.

The situation at the end of the battle.
 Result: Another sanguinary conflict.  The Spanish lost very heavily in the first half of the battle, the French in the second.  The Spanish lost around 6500 Infantry, 300 Cavalry and all 42 guns, although they are hopeful of recovering at least some of these from the defeated French.  The British in turn lost around 700 Infantry and 150 Cavalry.  The French lost around 7000 Infantry too, plus 1200 Cavalry and 12 guns.  At least the powerful French cavalry are preventing any pursuit.

Game Notes: Strong shades of Waterloo here, with an inferior army holding on just until the arrival of another army.  Marchand was very unlucky: his conception of operations was bold, entirely let down by terrible die rolls made against the initiative of all the other French commanders to see who would make the battlefield in time!  In contrast, the French troops fought superbly all over the field - the report doesn't do justice to how efficient the French attack was and how difficult most of the Allied attacks were: the French consistently seemed to roll better than their opponents and given the entirely veteran nature of their troops, made them incredibly difficult to move.  Furthermore, Espana's and Reding's troops managed to make crucial morale rolls - they could just as easily have cracked early in the battle, which would probably have led to the disintegration of Castanos' force just as Moore arrived.  Although Castanos' position was strong, the French advantages of skill and initiative nearly brought them victory in the face of quite heavy odds.

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