Saturday, April 18, 2020

Combat of the Côa, July 24th 1810

My regular Peninsular War gaming partner and co-conspirator Brian North and I battled out the Combat of the Côa this week - Covid19 style through a Facetime video link up! The scenario was one that I had just finished writing and play-testing solo last week, so it was great to have a live if somewhat disembodied opponent at the table for this go around. The scenario has since been polished up even more. A link to a downloadable pdf can can be found here.

Gaming in the age of Covid19

For those who might be interested our interface worked something like this. Brian was at his home, linked up with his iPad and computer while the table and toys were here in my house. I had my iPad, and we connected through Facetime. Mostly I had the screen recording the table, rigging up a little base made up of a heavy bookend and small bungy that allowed me to quickly move the iPad about the table and hold itself up, giving Brian a very exciting battlefield eye view of the action while I moved things about. On his turn he would give me direction, I would scan the iPad over his set up afterwards for an aerial view to get his approval, before moving on to my move and doing the same. 
My hight tek iPad set up, with a bungy cord and a weighted book end.
The only other tool we used was a map on foam core with pinned units that I updated every few turns, photographed and e-mailed to Brian along with three photos of the left, centre and right of the battlefield. 
Foam core mounted map with pinned units.

As the person running the show I kept up a running commentary of what I was doing and facilitated any needs Brian had of seeing different points of the battle. Sometimes this also meant moving his troops as directed and then allowing a tweak once he saw how they were positioned. I also took it on to make sure that his units didn’t fall out of command by being careful about the placement of his commanders.
It all worked surprisingly well. The only tweak we made was that as the facilitator I was exhausted by the end of the day and we agreed spreading it out over shorter sessions was the way to go.

The Scenario

The scenario map showing the start positions for the Light Division. This is the version we played although the scenario and map have been revised since.
The game was played out on a 10.5’ X 6’ table with 1/72nd scale toys. Our rule set was Over the Hills, certainly our favourite for battalion level Napoleonics. The scenario (linked on my OTH scenario page) was based on the action on the Côa when Crauford, unwisely lingering on the west side of the Côa in support of the Almeida border fortress in the face of Massena’s invading army, was caught unawares by Ney’s entire 6th Corps. Belatedly realizing the size of the force in front of him, he was forced to beat a hasty retreat over the Rio Côa, executing one of the most difficult maneuvers an army can attempt, a succesful withdrawal over a single bridgehead while under attack. The scenario differs from most as it is almost entirely maneuver, with the Anglo-Portuguese force rewarded for a successful withdrawal over the river and the French rewarded for thwarting that as much as possible.

The Battlefield

The walled area where much of the action takes place and key to the Allied withdrawal.

The bridge over the Côa, over which all of Crauford’s Light Division needed to withdraw.

The Battle

Crauford’s Light Division, arrayed in line of battle, with the 43rd on the division’s left (foreground), the two Caçadore battalions in the centre and the 52nd on the right ( top). The 95th is skirmishing in front. The bridge they need to retreat to is in the upper right, with the walled areas bordering the road on the right.

The French advance in column, with Ferey sending the 32nd Legère off to his left to try and outflank the 52nd.

Our pin map showing Crauford’s opening positions, with Ferrey attacking Barclay’s brigade (left) while Simon engages Beckwith (right). Crauford’s guns and cavalry are on the road at top retreating towards the bridge.

Simon’s troops, breaking into open order behind a dense screen of skirmishers, attack Beckwith’s brigade.

As Ferey’s lead troops charge the 95th, the Rifles melt away (right centre top) evading back towards the walled areas. The 52nd and 3rd Caçadores also fall back in skirmish order.

Beckwith’s brigade also retreats as Lamotte’s light cavalry threaten Crauford’s left (bottom right).

Simon’s troops surge forward, skirmishing with the retreating Rifles.

Lamotte’s cavalry enters the fray, charging in on the 43rd's flank. They are shelled in enfilade from the guns in the Almeida fortress, but still manage to come within spitting distance, threatening the 43rd.

Barclay’s Rifles reach a walled orchard, and stop to fire at the pursuing 82nd.

Ferey’s 32nd Legère try to gain the 52nd’s flank as the British retreat brings them to the rough ground sloping down to the Coa.

Beckwith’s brigade (except the Rifles, still skirmishing with Simon’s skirmish screen) reach the safety of the walled areas before the French horse can make contact. Beyond them the two Portuguese battalions and Barclay’s Rifles are now all lodged behind walls.

The 52nd, on Crauford’s far right, form line on reaching the rough ground leading to the Coa.

Crauford, afraid that the French horse might try to get in behind Beckwith's retreating 43rd, calls the KGL Hussars off from retreating and sends them back to confront the French horse. Just in time, as Lamotte, his pursuit barred by the tall orchard walls, turns his attention towards the road. 

Beckwith continues to pull his brigade back as Loison’s troops prepare to enter the walled area.

Things heat up on Crauford’s right as Ferey’s troops, in open order, stream down from the high ground. The 52nd stand fast, with their Rifles and the 1st Caçadores formed up to their left. In order for access to the bridge to stay open it is vital that this flank hold.

Beckwith’s Rifles in retreat.

Loison’s guns, slowed by rough ground, finally unlimber above the Coa and begin some long distance and ineffective shelling of the enemy.

Simon’s troops swarm down to the walled area but Beckwith continues to put distance between him and the French.

Overview. In the foreground Lamotte and Anson's cavalry square off while above that Beckwith begins to put some space between him and Simon. At the top Barclay, needing to protect the road leading to the bridge has stopped and formed up, offering battle to Ferey’s massing troops.

On Crauford’s right the 52nd take advantage of the 66th, whose battalions have bunched up in their pursuit of the enemy. A hard fought battle sends 4/66th and 6/66th back in a rout, but leaves the 52nd badly battered. Ferey forms up the 32nd and 5/66th in column and charges the 52nd while the 82nd engages the Rifles. The 52nd are routed and flee across the river but the attacking French are too beat up to pursue.

Lanmotte leads the 3rd Hussars in a charge against the KGL who countercharge. A vicious fight sends both sides reeling back badly battered. Lamotte is killed in the fray.

Meanwhile, on the road to the bridge, one of the British supply wagons have overturned - blocking the road!  French prisoners try to right it at gun point.
The retreating 3rd Caçadores are forced to make their way around. The British guns and Dragoons have already crossed the bridge and taken up supporting positions on the far bank. 

The KGL, seeing that all the infantry have almost made it to the bridge and are safe from cavalry attacks, make a break for the bridge. They escape the pursuing French cavalry but are destroyed by enfilade fire, receiving a volley as they storm past the advancing French infantry.
Below the 43rd and 1st Caçadores have made it to the river edge, while the Rifles cover the retreat from a forward positionand the 3rd Caçadores slip over the bridge.

The French cavalry give pursuit, but Crauford’s division has disappeared into the Coa’s valley.

3rd Caçadores march away to safety, with the Royal Horse Artillery now firing in support from the west bank of the Coa.

The 43rd fall back from the knoll to the banks of the Coa. Simon’s troops are still well out of contact and Ferrey’s brigade too beat up to pursue.

The 43rd follow the 1st Caçadores over the Coa, with Barclay’s 95th forming the rearguard. The Rifles endure a bit of desultory sniping from the approaching French but slip away intact well before Loison can make contact.

Final overview. The 43rd crossing the bridge with the Rifles forming a rear guard. Simon’s troops, intact but never able to close, too late come pouring down towards the river. Both sides lost one unit (Crauford lost the KGL Hussars while Ferey lost his battered 32nd to artillery fire) and the French also suffered the loss of Lamotte. Because Crauford managed to get all but one of his units over the Coa, the Anglo-Portuguese score a very narrow win!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The 32me Infanterie de Ligne

While my left eye is out of commission I figured I would tackle some French in greatcoats, a simpler painting proposition as I can avoid any piping on collars and cuffs. I still had a number of French left over from the HaT 1805-1808 French in Greatcoats set, some of which I had previously converted, so scalpel in hand I once again removed their bicorned heads and replaced them with shakoed heads from a box of 1805 Légere, also HaT (and a set full of stiff poses that I don't like!)
Figures with bicornes lopped off and shakos attached, to which I added covers and pompoms.
A bit of modelling putty transformed these into covered shakos, to which I added pompoms and plumes for the light infantry. The only major conversion was the standard bearer, an altered fusilier.

Fusilier converted to standard bearer. The modelling is a bit rough byut works from a distance.
 I thought I would set them somewhere in France this time, doubtlessly after their repatriation from Lisbon and prior to their return to Spain in 1808. And I especially want to point out all of my new trees in the background - another one-eyed project! I hope you enjoy the results.

A little history
Created in 1775 from two battalions of Aunis, the 32nd was reconstituted during the reorganization of the French army in 1803 into three battalions of 800 men each.
The 32nd (3rd battalion) marched with Junot into Portugal as part of the Gironde Observation Corps in 1807, entering Spain via Salamanca and arriving in Lisbon as part of the Army of Portugal in December 8, 1807. After Junot’s defeat at Vimiero the 32nd was repatriated to France by sea and reorganized, after which the first three battalions were sent to Spain as part of the 1st Division of the 4th Corps under General Sébastiani. The regiment subsequently participated in the battles of Talavera, Almonacid, Baza, Ocana and Vittoria as well as other engagements in the Peninsular War.

Regimental war record (Battles and Combats)
1791: Antilles
1793: Mainz
1795: Loano
1796: Montelgino, Dego, Lonato, Arcole and Saint Georges
1797: Rivoli and Mantoue
1798: Malta, Alexandrie and Les Pyramides
1799: El-Arish, Jaffa, Acre, Mont-Tabor, Aboukir and Damiette
1800: Heliopolis
1801: Alexandrie
1805: Haslach, Diernstein and Ulm 
1807: Mohrungen and Friedland
1809: Talevera de de Reina and Almonacid
1810: Baza
1811: Ubida, Venta-del-Baul and Ticola
1812: Ocana
1813: Vittoria, Sorauren and Bayonne
1813: Lutzen,Wurschen, Buntzlau, Dresden and Leipzig
1814: Orthez and Toulouse
1814: Nogent-sur-Seine, Nangis, Monterau and Limonset
1815: Mundolsheim and Srasbourg

Monday, March 2, 2020

Zaragoza Light Infantry 1808

Continuing with a theme, I painted up another battalion of round-hatted Spanish infantry for my ever-growing Spanish army. The beauty of painting the Spanish, as a wargamer, is that you will literally never run out of new and varied units to paint! Especially in the myriad of units that emerged (and disappeared again!) in 1808 as a result of the Central Junta’s call to arms, virtually every region and municipality in the nation had its own unique uniform.
This week’s offering is the blue-coated light infantry formed in 1808 in defence of Zaragoza during its prolonged sieges over 1808-09. These were bloody affairs that resulted in the estimated deaths of 54,000 Spaniards (20,000 soldiers and 34,000 civilians). The French also lost terrible numbers during the siege, both in battle and from disease, although nothing close to the Spanish losses.

The figures are again from the HaT Spanish Guerrilla box. I had earlier decapitated a few of these for another militia unit so those figures received new heads, some bandaged or with different hats, giving the unit a more battle worn appearance. The uniforms on these figures, as stated in the previous post, also vary, with different coat cuts and leggings - the official uniform, according to the Osprey image, has the Zaragoza light infantry with full lapels and short tails with red turnbacks. But only a few of these figures have those. I would imagine in the privations and desperation of a prolonged siege, uniformity was probably not universal!

A bit of history...
There were two battalions of Zaragoza Light Infantry raised during the two sieges, the first on the 29th of May, 1808 and the second December 1 of the same year. At the conclusion of the second siege on February 21 1809 the first battalion had only 87 survivors and the 2nd 62, and on surrendering all were led into captivity in France.

Head swaps I made for a few of the figures to add more variety to an already mixed bag.

In skirmish formation with half the figures detached from their four-up magnetic bases.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Tiradores de Doyle

I thought I would try my hand at painting up some Spanish round hatted infantry, representative of the many and varied forces raised in Spain as a result of the Central Junta’s call for 400,000 new recruits in October of 1808. I wanted to do something different then the ubiquitous brown and my friend Brian North suggested the Tiradores de Doyle, a unit originally raised as Batallon de la Reunion de Osera. Its name was changed on August 10, 1808 by the Aragonese Captain General José de Palafox to honour the English agent Charles Doyle who arrived in Zaragoza in 1808 and helped organize and take command of the battalion. Few officers of this battalion survived the second siege of Saragossa but Doyle managed to recompose the battalion not once but twice during the conflict. Eventually Doyle lost favour of the court in 1813 and the name of the battalion was changed to the Barbastro Infantry Regiment and backdated to 1794, long before it was ever constituted!

In skirmish order, with pairs of figures pulled off magnetic bases.
The uniform of this light infantry changed many times over its history but while under Doyle’s command the small bit of information I could find indicated they were dressed in red uniforms with white waistcoats and trousers, and round hats. I liked the idea of painting some red-coated round-hatted Spanish infantry and so I went with that. I was unable to find any visual reference for this unit at that time, especially any mention of facing colour, so I took artistic license and made it yellow. Later the uniform seems to have changed to the English style, with stove pipe shako, dark blue jacket and trousers and red facings (at least this is how they appear in the photo below that I found of re-enactors of this regiment).

This was the only visual reference I could find of the Tiradores de Doyle, re-enactors in the later English style uniform.

These miniatures are the round hatted figures found in the 1/72 HaT guerrilla box. The uniforms have mixed styles but I like the ragtag look they give to this unit. Other than the command stand they were painted straight out of the box. The commander is from the Spanish Command set as are the standard bearer and the drummer. The latter two, however, were given top hats that I’m proud to say I sculpted myself!

I’m happy with the results. At the moment I am having some problems with my vision so painting may not be totally up to scratch, but the simplicity of many of the 1808 Spanish uniforms with little or no piping made the job a little bit easier.

My foray into round hat sculting for the command stand, done on some very ancient Airfix civil war figures. The plastic had become so brittle I could easily carve the figures away afterwards with a scalpel! 
Round hats mounted on Spanish command stand standard bearers and drummers. The second pair will be for my next project.