Monday 25 June 2012

The Battle of Despergar el Puente, Spain 1812....Game Number 12

The following action was fought using a slightly modified version of Command and Colours Napoleonics - slightly modified in that whilst all movement and combat was as per the game I applied a dash of Memoir of Battle to the affair; coupled with a nod to Napoleons Wars. Essentially I had an Artillery Fire Phase, an Initiative Phase followed by the individual player activations. I did away with the use of command cards and also using banners for victory conditions - instead the fifty percent rule was employed so that when an army was reduced to fifty percent of its starting strength it was no longer capable of taking the offensive and could only fight in its current position or attempt to withdraw from the action. For unit moves instead of the command cards I used the activation system found in the Worthington Games: Napoleons Wars rules. Essentially these rules are Command and Colours based but without the cards.

The forces were made up as follows with the numbers referring to the number of blocks in the unit:

French - General de Brigade, Pierre Jeune La Ford

2 x 4 Cuirassiers
4 x 4 Line
1 x 2 Foot Artillery
1 x 1 Commander

A total of 27 blocks which, using the 50 percent rule equates to 13.5 blocks or 13 rounded down.

Anglo-Portuguese - General Charles Featherstone - Grant

2 x 3 Dragoon
5 x 4 Line (3 x 4 English, 2 x 4 Portuguese)
1 x 2 Foot Artillery
1 x 1 Commander

A total of 29 blocks which, using the 50 percent rule equates to 14.5 blocks or 14 rounded down.

Somewhere in Spain, June 1812....

So far the Chorizo Valley had managed to avoid the depredations of the hated French invaders but this state of affairs was about to abruptly change. A detachment from the formation under the command of General de Division, Jean Luc, of Picardy (described as an enterprising fellow by his countrymen), and headed by that well known Beau Sabreur, General de Brigade, Pierre Jeune La Ford, appeared at the head of the pass on either side of the Rio Rafaga. His orders were simple, to collect as much forage and supplies as he was able in order to supply the main army. It was thought that the 'Rosbifs' were nearby but in what strength was unknown. This was of little concern to La Ford as surveyed his command marching proudly into the valley. His immediate destination was the small bridge in the centre of the valley across the Rio Rafaga as this effectively split his force in two. Securing the bridge would ensure that he could forage on both sides of the river without fear of having either detachment cut off. With this in mind La Ford split his small force almost exactly in two with his cavalry in the van followed up by the infantry. He decided to keep his artillery concentrated and determined to secure the small hill that overlooked the bridge in order to command both the approaches. After seeing that his dispositions for the short march were in order La Ford raised his plumed hat into the air and waved it three time giving the signal to advance.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the valley....

General Charles Featherstone-Grant was aware of the French intrusion into the Chorizo valley by virtue of the reports received from the local Guerilla chief - El Toro - but as ever, he treated these 'reports' with caution. The Guerillas were enthusiastic enough but they tended to colour their reports somewhat - usually depending on what they thought you wanted to hear. Featherstone-Brant had already decided what to do in any event and so he deployed his cavalry, artillery and the two battalions of Portuguese infantry on the right of the Rio Rafaga and the three battalions of British infantry on the left bank. His plan was move up and occupy the small farm and the hill on opposite sides of the river; thereby covering the bridge from either end. he was confident that should be able to do so as the French lacked sufficient force to take either position without their force being combined and with the bridge secured from both approaches the French would have to withdraw.

The initial dispositions and a 'Can you tell what it is yet?' moment....

The Anglo-Portuguese forces under the watchful eye of Messrs. Young and Lawford - note the cavalry deployed entirely on the right bank of the Rio Rafaga

The French deploy with the Cuirassiers in the van and the main bulk of their infantry on the right bank of the Rio Rafaga

One of the two cavalry regiments - largely on the initiative of their hard riding commander - gallop off to find the enemy

The British cavalry rounds the hill and sees the French artillery deployed to their front whist the French Cuirassiers move up on the bridge

Meanwhile, oblivious to the events on the other side of the river, the British infantry advance to secure the farm and its environs

The French cavalry engage their opposite numbers and come off second best

Whilst the artillery shattered remnants of the leading British cavalry regiment retire on their hotly engaged countrymen

The fight was short and brutal with the Frenchmen completing the work of their artillery but only to suffer in return, engaged as they were to the fore and the flank

Meanwhile, on the opposite bank the French advance to  secure the farm

The end of the French cavalry on the left bank of the Rio Rafaga - taken in the flank and to the fore despite a  gallant fight

The leading British infantry unit engages their French opposite number

Whilst the French unit was repulsed with loss the support was not far behind

The British infantry suffered casualties and was in danger of being isolated and overwhelmed

As the French artillery moved up on the left bank of the river the cavalry moved onto the bridge where the remaining British cavalry charged them - outnumbered two to one they were defeated but not without inflicting casualties on their cantankerous opponents

The French artillery was now up to the bridge and with infantry support moving up things began to look ominous for the Anglo-Portuguese

With a sole infantry regiment in position, Featherstone-Grant leads the assault against the bridge

At last the other British infantry regiment is moving up in support of their beleaguered countrymen 

Meanwhile, the French consolidate their tenuous hold on the bridge and the line from the hill

With unhurried precision the the two British regiments align and the stronger of the two determines to take the fight to the enemy whilst the remaining unit, under the watchful eye of Featherstone-Grant continues to rake the French horsemen on the bridge with a withering fire

With impeccable timing - albeit rather fortuitous - the newly arrived British infantry regiment; together with the unit directly under the control of Featherstone-Grant, deliver a series of crashing volleys into the nearest French infantry regiment and destroy it entirely!

The final score - the French had lost 15 blocks whilst the British had suffered less than half their total. the French had been defeated as they had fallen beneath the 50 percent level.

The battle was over and the French were in full retreat. Featherstone-Grant was unable to mount an effective pursuit as his cavalry was ruined. The French horse was not in much better condition but at least they still possessed a mounted arm. Once again the steady and disciplined volleys of 'that finest of instruments, the British infantry' had triumphed and so the remorseless pursuit of the French armies in Spain could continue. All in all it had not been a bad day.

La Ford was beside himself with frustration as once again his infantry had been bested by the 'Rosbifs' and without even the satisfaction of seeing his cavalry triumphing over the much vaunted British cavalry. True enough they had eventually seen off the British cavalry but just what was the commander thinking leaving them sitting on the bridge as a target for the enemy infantry?

Sadly for La Ford the cavalry commander had died waiting for both support and orders and so was thus unable to request either from his celebrated chief.

With heavy hearts the remnants of the French force gathered their wounded, formed up and headed back up the valley, their hunger ever present and with a feeling of impending doom dogging their weary footsteps.

Raison D'Etre or why?

I wanted to try doing something a little different and so decided to give the classic game from Charge - the Battle of Blasthof Bridge - a dash of a Napoleonic board game twist and so fought the same using Command and Colours: Napoleonic with a couple of home made tweaks. The battle was actually very easy to translate into such a game although I did have a momentary twinge of conscience as the words of the two authors echoed down through the years as if in admonishment of my efforts - "You will not, we suppose, be so lost to all feeling, as to represent your units and formations by counters, blocks of wood or cards."

I rather fancy that I have missed that particular piece of sagacious advice....;-)

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