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.

Wednesday 9 March 2016

The Battle of Moraleja February 1809: Peninsular War Campaign Battle 18

The Battle of Moraleja

General Situation: King Joseph continues to press the pursuit of Wellington towards Portugal.  Spanish administrative difficulties during the retreat lead to a period of confusion in which Wellington is too far away from his Spanish allies to support them and they have been too tardy to follow his retreat.  Seizing this opportunity, King Joseph has pushed forwards his leading Corps - the Third and the Fifth - to try and destroy the Spanish armies whilst they are separated from their British allies.  Moncey and Mortier have managed to bring the Spanish Armies of Valencia and Andalusia to battle near the village of Moraleja...

Orders of Battle:

Spanish Forces:

Army of Valencia:
C-in-C: Cervellon (Plodding)
 Adorno's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Freire's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
La Serna's Division: 4000 Infantry, 18 Guns
Llamas' Division: 4000 Infantry, 1000 Cavalry, 18 Guns
La Pena's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns

Army of Andalusia:
C-in-C: Castanos (Competent)
Venegas' Division: 4000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Coupigny's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Espana's Division: 1000 Infantry, 1000 Cavalry, 18 Guns

Imperial Forces:

III Corps:
C-in-C: Moncey (Decisive)
Gobert's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Morlot's Division: 5000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Wathier's Brigade: 1000 Cavalry
Grouchy's Division: 2000 Cavalry, 6 Guns
Clauzel's Division: 4000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Musnier's Division: 5000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Barbou's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Corps Artillery: 24 Guns

V Corps:
C-in-C: Mortier (Competent)
Suchet's Division: 9000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Gazan's Division: 5000 Infantry, 6 Guns
De Laage's Brigade: 1000 Cavalry
Corps Artillery: 24 Guns

Set-Up & Dispositions:

The battlefield: French at the bottom, Spanish at the top.  The French (from left): Suchet's Div and Gazan's Div of V Corps with De Laage's Cavalry at extreme left; Grouchy, Morlot, Musnier (in rear), Gobert, Wathier's cavalry, Barbou and Clauzel.  The Spanish Army of Valencia is upper left: Adorno, Freire, La Serna, Llamas, with La Pena in reserve; and the Army of Andalusia is top-right: Espana, Venegas then Coupigny

From behind V Corps, looking at Adorno's Division with Freire's Division supporting

Behind Gazan's Division on the left, then Grouchy's Division, then Morlot's Division and III Corps artillery, all facing the Army of Valencia

The remainder of III Corps, facing the Army of Andalusia

From behind the Army of Andalusia, looking at III Corps (upper left and centre) and V Corps (upper right)
 The Battle

The battle begins with an exchange of artillery fire.  Some of the French infantry (Gobert's Division) is driven back with loss

Cervellon withdraws his leading division (Adorno's) from its advanced position; Grouchy's Cavalry and units from V Corps prepare to advance

The blue order markers indicate that the French are preparing to attack along their right and centre

Llamas' Division on the hill withdraws to avoid the withering Frecnch artillery bombardment

The view of the Spanish left-wing defences from behind Gobert's infantry and Wathier's cavalry

Gobert's Division is wavering after having been attacked by Venegas' brigades; just on the brink of victory however, the Spanish general withdraws his troops(!)...

As a result of the remainder of his division being broken and scattered by a smart attack by Clauzel's infantry, which has seized the hill.  Castanos refuses to panic and prepares an immediate counter-attack

On the French left flank, V Corps and Grouchy's cavalry move up to their assault positions as Adorno (Spanish right) continues his withdrawal

Same position, slightly different shot

A series of pictures didn't come out at all.  However, the combined counter-atacks of Espana's and Coupigny's division routed Clauzels' infantry, capturing a whole brigade which couldn't escape.  The Spanish have broken Wathier;s light cavalry for good measure.  At this point, a French Aide-de-Camp was heard to mutter "My friend, the issue of the battle depends on whether Marshal Mortier can win us the battle before Marshal Moncey loses it..."

Mortier's V Corps' attack has largely succeeded!  Suchet has driven back Adorno's division and turned the Spanish flank.  Gazan (centre, with blue order markers) has split Freire's division too, after the Spaniards had very smartly seen off Grouchy's cavalry.  La Serna (mid-right) has managed to beat off a supporting attack made by Morlot's infantry

Moncey tries to counter-attack Castanos' troops, but the massed Spanish artillery is wreaking havoc on the French formations

The French artillery in its turn has inflicted heavy losses on the Spaniards to its front

Gazan destroys Freire's Division and then routs La Serna: La Pena advances to try and restore the situation

Same position but from a slightly different angle; the success of both army's left flanks can be clearly seen

Gazan defeats La Pena's division too.  The Army of Valencia's infantry has simply lacked the skills and experience of V Corps' veterans

Conversely, Moncey's conscripts are suffering heavily at the hands of Castanos' veterans; Barbou's troops have lost well over a third of their strength and are about to quit the field

The position at the end of the battle: the Army of Valencia has collapsed, but Moncey's III Corps is (just) still in the fight.  The Spanish end the battle and withdraw

 A very sanguinary affair, with both sides taking severe punishment.  French losses amounted to 5500, the vast majority in III Corps which is only around 35% effective now.  Spanish losses were rather higher, amounting to around 8500, concentrated in the Army of Valencia which is about 15% effective and will require a long period of rebuilding before it regains its strength.  Luckily for the Spanish, the French cavalry suffered a great deal in the battle and there was very little in the way of pursuit.

Game Notes:
The game took just over 2 hours of playing time.  It was played ona 5' x 3' board,using Polemos Marechal de l'Empire rules and Baccus 6mm figures.  The key features of the game were the dominance of veteran troops over line andagain, the importance of formation rolls.  The most important turn in the game came quite early on, when Barbou defied the odds and passed his morale check (33% chance) and Venegas failed his (he had a 66% chance of passing).  If Moncey had lost a division at this point and Castanos had kept his, it is very likely that Castanos attack would have defeated Moncey before Mortier beat Cervellon.  In addition, the Spanish really felt the effects of Cervellon's "plodding" generalship rating: the Army of Valencia simply could not rally and manouevre whereas the French generals were always able to do both simultaneously.

All-in-all, another very interesting and exciting game, which really could have gone either way (III Corps Army morale was at 0.5 by the end of the game, a single die roll or a single extra unit lost would certainly have broken the Corps...)

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