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 20 March 2016

Peninsular War Campaign Battle 20: The Battle of Amposta, early March 1809

The Battle of Amposta, early March 1809

General Situation: Continuing his pursuit of the ragged survivors of the Army of Catalonia, General Junot has manouvred to the south of the city of Tortosa and is now marching northwards upon the city.  Fortunately for the Spanish, Cuesta's Army of the Centre has reached the Army of Catalonia boefore the arrival of Junot and the combined Spanish armies are an approximate numerical match for the oncoming French.  But there is a strategic dn:ilemma: given the equality of the arimes, should the Spaniards take refuge in the city: saving it for the moment and perhaps delaying the French, but ceding the initiative in North-East Spain to the invader and bottling up troops?  Or should they offer battle and attempt to defeat Junot? Or combine the too options?
In the end the two Spanish generals have agreed to stand and fight...

Orders of Battle:

Imperial Forces:

VIII Corps: C-in-C Gen Junot (Capable)
Delaborde's Division: 5000 Infantry
Travot's Division: 6000 Infantry
Kellermann's Division: 1000 Cavalry
Artillery: 24 guns

Totals: 11000 Infantry, 1000 Cavalry, 24 guns

Spanish Forces:

Army of the Centre: C-in-C Cuesta (Capable)
Zayas' Division: 3000 Infantry, 2000 Cavalry
Morretti's Division: 3000 Infantry
Artillery: 12 guns

Army of Catalonia: C-in-C Palacio (Plodding)
Caldagues' Division: 2000 Infantry
Jacome's Division: 2000 Infantry

Totals: 10000 Infantry, 2000 Cavalry, 12 guns

The Deployment:

The terrain and deployment: Spanish to the North (top), French approaching from the South (bottom).  The position consists of some farms and a hill (between the sets of farms in the Spanish centre) and a hill occupied by the French left (bottom left of shot)
The French left flank: Travot's Division faces off againstMoretti's Division of the Army of the Centre

The opposing centres: a brigade from Travot's Division with Kellermann's Dragoon Division behind. Zayas' Division and Caldagues' Division for the Spanish oppose them

View from behind Caldagues' troops on the central hill, overlooking Travot (top right), the French artillery (top-centre) and elements of Delaborde's Division (top left)
From the same hill, but this time looking towards the other hill
From the hill behind the French left-flank brigade
The battle begins!  Travot and Delaborde both send infantry forward - but massed Spanish artillery on the central hill drive back the two rightmost of Travot's Battalions.
View of the advance of Travot's French infantry from behind Kellermann's Dragoons
Delaborde leads two brigades forward into a small gap in the Spanish lines
Same position as previous
Same position - but showing the wider context: Delaborde tries to push through a potential gap in the Spanish lines between Caldagues' brigades
Delaborde's final brigade tries to pin Jacome's Division; meanwhile Delaborde tries to punch a hole in the Spanish line at the rearmost farm to try and cut-off Jacome's troops
Massed French columns from Delaborde's Division try to turn the Spanish central position: Caldagues' Division braces itself for the impact
A wider contextual shot of this position: Palacio has asked Cuesta for two battalions to support Caldagues' brigade
A superb moment for the Spanish! Caldagues' raw infantry (farm, top-right, with confusingly General Jacome nearby!) throw back Delaborde's veteran infantry with some aplomb, which wouldn't disgrace the Foot Guards!  Delaborde's left-hand brigade throws a couple of Spanish battalions back slightly, despite facing almost as heavy resistance
Morretti's conscripts throw back Travot's fusiliers, again with heavy loss...
...but Travot himself has led a textbook assault at the head of his light infantry battalions to take the position at the first farm, routing one Spanish infantry battalion and pushing back another
"An Act of Rare Boldness" - in the words of the British Liaison Officer to Catalonia: Jacome shows hitherto unsuspected aggression and actually attacks Delaborde's pinning brigade, throwing the majority of it back with heavy casualties!!!  Only Delaborde's left-hand battalion resists, driving back its opponent with equally severe losses.
A wider contextual shot: the French are attacking the Spanish around the two farmhouses whilst merely demonstrating against the Spanish centre; Spanish field guns continuously thwart all French attempts to close the distance
Travot's light infantry complete their clearance of the first farm
Stalemate on the French right-wing.  Gen Palacio is mortally wounded at a crucial moment and his divisions, without orders, merely continue to fire away at the French at long range
"A most untoward event!" - The Spanish militiamen proceed to decimate and rout the veteran French light infantry as they attempt a second assault!  Caldagues, Sarsfield (the replacement for Palacio as C-in-C Army of Catalonia) and Cuesta stabilize the situation in the Spanish centre
Same position, close-up of the successful Spanish defence
"They fled at the point of the bayonet" - Jacome's troops break two battalions of Delaborde's right-hand brigade...
"A most glorious charge!" - The Spanish Guard Cavalry charges Delaborde's other brigade which had just in its turn broken one of the Spanish battalions opposing it.  It is soon in full retreat, leaving Delaborde himself dead on the field.
Delaborde's Division in full retreat!
Same position, wider view
However, Caldagues' Division is also shattered from the intensity of the combat and retreats from the field too!
The Spanish centre being restored after the defeat of Delaborde's Division
Refusing to panic despite the collapse of his entire right-wing, General Junot orders Travot to continue his assault on the Spanish position facing the French left-flank: two further Spanish battalions are routed and the ramainder are in headlong retreat
Meanwhile Cuesta is repairing the Spanish centre in preparation for launching a direct assault on the French centre
General Junot withdraws his centre into a thick defensive line, hoping his left-flanking attack will succeed before the Spanish can exploit the weakness on his right and centre... so!  Junot's only confort is that it will take Jacome a little while to re-organise his victorious troops
At this moment, Cuesta learned of the defeat of Moretti...and decided to withdraw!  The old man appeared to have lost his confidence, or perhaps considered that Junot's Corps had suffered so heavily that it was no longer worth risking the loss of Catalonia which a more sever defeat would incur
Position at the end of the battle
The Outcome: A tense and sanguinary struggle, finally decided in favour of the French!This one could really have gone either way and (more) credit must go to General Junot for having the nerve to continue his assault with Travot's Division alone.  Casualties on both sides were high: the French lost around 1900 men, the vast majority in Delaborde's Division, who was killed leading his troops.

General Delaborde, French divisional commander in Junot's Corps killed in the battle at the head of his troops

Spanish casualties in the battle were similar: around 1375 dead, wounded and prisoners on the field, but Kellermann's dragoons were able to capture a further 2000 in the pursuit following the battle.  The commander of the Army of the Valencia, Palacio, was also killed in the fighting and was replaced on the field by General Sarsfield.

Game Notes: As ever in the Polemos General de Division rules, the key dice rolls are the formation morale rolls: although both sides made some unlikely saves, the Spanish lost a couple of key ones.  It sometimes throws up some strange outcomes but it keeps the game very interesting and makes it harder to crack the game.  It also helps to (generally) keep the casualty rates realistic and the games tend to finish. In terms of the orders of battle, one may notice significantly fewer guns than I have previously used.  This is because I have decided that artillery strengths were sometimes approaching double the historical strengths.  This was because I allotted a battery to every division rather than only using the "artillery points" in the rules.  I think that I changed the rule orignially because the Spanish force limits unrealistically punished the Spanish player by limiting too tightly how much and where the Spanish can have artillery.  This problem still remains, so I will have to examine the options to see if I can find something which works better.
I'm not sure how long the game took in playing time as I played the game over a few short sittings (I'm not very well at the minute - poor me!).  It was played on a 5' x 3' table with Baccus 6mm miniatures.  The buildings are from Total Battle Miniatures.

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