Sunday, June 10, 2018

'Now... that reminds me...'

French approach.  The Dragoons have taken some losses from
guerrilla fire as they passed through the town.  13th Light
undertake to clear the place of insurgents. The weakened
11th Dragoons are further discomfited by the Maria-Luisa Hussars...
A comment upon my recent posting anent the Gatonegro War of Independence put me in mind of amnother wargames battle, fought long ago between armies of disparate training and durability.  The thing was set in Spain, and based upon one of Charles S. Grant's Tabletop Teasers: 'Peninsular Conflict'.  I notice now, looking at the original, that I inverted the whole thing, a little trick my memory sometimes plays with me!

The premise is that poorly trained and led, motivated only by resistance against an occupying power, the Spanish armies were time and again defeated by the French.  Early in the Peninsular War,  smallish French forces  were able to take on and beat much larger Spanish armies.  Such is the myth, anyhow, but a fine instance of that must have been General Joseph Souham's victory over twice his numbers at Vich (Vic) Catalonia early in 1810. Of course, one tends to forget the outcomes of the actions at Baylen, Tamames and Alcaniz...

This scenario had the French responding to rumours of a Spanish force approaching an important town somewhere in northern Spain.  The report read by General Montenez indicated the town itself  - El Viscostello - was a hotbed of guerrilla activity.  Off marched the French general, with his Division, with attached horse and guns. His aim was to capture and seal off the passes through the high ridges west of the town.
Late morning: the action develops.  French ordre mixte clears
the northern ridge and part of the central, but at some cost.
Spanish right hand Brigade counter-attacks...
 His Army comprised:

Army of Catalonia, Momtenez's Division:
GOC General de Division Alexandre Montenez.

13me Legere ..... 27 figures (3 HQ gigures and 24 'shooting' figures)
17me Ligne  ...... 27 figures
30me Ligne ........27 figure
51me Ligne ........27 figures
61me Ligne ........27 figures
11me Dragons ... 12 figures
9me Hussards .... 12 figures
Cannon ...............  8 figures and 2 cannon.

Totals: 167 figures and 2 guns.

Now, this had been somewhat adapted from the Teaser scenario, and took on board the author's suggestion - in view of the heavy defeat of the French in his enactment - the addition of a further unit to the original numbers.

Early afternoon:  French advancing steadily on the right, but
are very lucky to hold on their left when a desperate change by
9th Hussars flings back two Spanish battalions.
 At the time, my friend 'Jacko' was building a Spanish army, in plastics I think, with 18-figure battalions.  This led to a fair bit of calculation and Maffs to arrive at the Army of the Left-Right-Centre led by General Don Diego del Huevos y Bacon as follows:

Early morning: the 13th Light infantry beginning clearing operations. 
Two companies clear the north side fairly quickly, and on the south side,
 the guerrilleros are soon driven into the orange groves.  But the pursuit
among the trees leads to losses heavy enough that 13th Light
 had to give up the chase.  They fall back to the buildings
 lining the main street streets.  Two guerrilla figures remain.

Army of the Left-Right-Centre:
GOC General Don Diego del Huevos y Bacon

1. Navarre infantry  ....... 18 figures
2. Cordoba Infantry ........18 figures
3. Zaragoza Infantry .......18 figures
4. Leon Infantry ..............18 figures
5. Rey Infantry ................18 figures
6. Aragon Infantry ..........18 figures
7. Soria Infantry ..............18 figures
8. Guadualaxara Infantry..18 figures
9. Estremadura Infantry ...18 figures
10. Maria Luisa Hussars ..12 figures
11. Artillery ...................... 8 figures and 2 cannon

Totals: 182 figures plus 2 guns.

In addition to this considerable force, there were in the town a small force of guerrilleros, to the number ten.  The town itself comprised 12 buildings, 6 on the north side of the main street; 6 on the south.  Orange groves fringed the southern outskirts.  The location of each guerrilla fighter was determined by a die throw: odds/evens to determine north/south side; and the pip count determining which building.  The modified picture above and to the right shows the distribution, and the French effort to hunt them down: 3 guerrillas on the north side; 7 on the south.

The qualitative difference between the armies was intended to make up the difference in numerical strength.  The 24 shooting figures of the French battalions was double that of the 16 shooting figures of the Spanish.  The former were more durable into the bargain, being classed as 'Experienced' against the Spanish 'Raw'.  However, the guerrilleros, acting in small independent groups, were not subject to morale checks at all.  Combat between them and their light infantry adversaries was conducted in a different manner - more in the way of a 'skirmish' action among individual figures.  The result was startling, to say the least.  The 13th Light infantry were never to enter the main action this day!

Late afternoon:  A Spanish counter-attack throws the French
briefly onto the defensive, and even recaptures the centre
ridge for a time.  French pressure on both flanks eventually
throws back the Spanish army.  Half an hour before last
 light, the Cocobanana and Saramiles passes are both
in French hands,
Leading the French column, on a dim dawning of 19 February, 1810, the 9th Hussars passed through the town safely enough.  But by the time the leading troopers of the 11th Dragoons passed through,  the insurgents in the town had been alerted and were ready for action.  Pistol, musket and blunderbuss fire erupted from upper windows and balconies, emptying many a saddle.  Carrying on through the town. the Dragoons formed up west of the town.  It was up to the light infantry of the 13th Legere to clear the town.  As the volume of fire indicated that the majority of the insurgents were on the southern side of town, just two companies were detailed to clear the north side; and the remainder of the battalion to deal to the south side. 

As commander of the French, I had hoped that, after clearing the town of insurgents, the light infantry would become available for action in the battle for the ridges.  It was not to be, but the French were victorious - fortunately so - in the tough, hard-fought near-run affair that ensued.

Apart from the map captions, I won't go into the rest of the action: it's ancient history.  But, by a remarkable coincidence, something very similar was to occur during the early months of the Gatonegro War of Independence...


  1. Quality vs quantity generally produces an interesting tussle, be it historical or fictitious!

    1. Sometimes quality is as quality does. Even after more than 20 years I still remember the performance of at least a couple of those Spanish units. The Maria-Luisa Hussars putting the Dragoons to flight was one embarrassing moment.

  2. Did I play in this one? Great read

    1. Yes: you had the Spanish. It was a close run thing from start to finish. I don't think the unit names really matched with what you had, but I gave them the names at the time for a more interesting narrative. I don't think it ever quite made it to Southern Sortie, though.

    2. Yes, Esci French painted as Spanish !