Monday, December 5, 2016

The Battle of Bailén, July 19, 1808

Bailén AAR

We playtested a scenario based on the battle of Bailén over the past couple of weeks, running through it three times. The first was between our regulars, Ted and Phong, with me refereeing, and the Spanish won handily. The second time I played it through solo with an even more devastating result for the French.
Third time was lucky, and a more protracted and interesting battle, with the French winning decisively. (My brother Jim played the Spanish in his first outing with these rules so some of that inexperience may have influenced the outcome!) Regardless, a bit more tweaking and the scenario should be ready to share, if anyone is interested.
Our group is really quite new to Napoleonics, but there was a dearth of scenarios for Spain that I had seen so far, especially those that were just between the Spanish and the French, so Bailén, arguably the first major battle in the Peninsular conflict and certainly one of the few where the Spanish triumphed, seemed like a good place to start. With about a corps per side it made for a good starter battle where we could come to grips with some new rules and move toy soldiers around. And I finally had painted the pieces I needed for a battle of this scale.
The scenario ignores the disastrous piece meal attacks that Dupont threw against the Spanish, and is a bit of a what-if that assumes that the French waited until all their forces that were historically engaged on that day had arrived. It also ignores the severe heat and lack of water that especially wore down a French army that had just marched throughout the night. In the end, the odds are still on the Spanish side, but it makes for a more even conflict which, and with a bit of luck, we've shown the French can carry the day. The game was played on a 4.5' X 5/ table in 1/72 scale using the Age of Eagles rule set. Figures are mainly Hat with some Italeri, Emhar and Zevda in the mix.
The French objective is to break through the Spanish lines and join with Vedel, who is marcing towards Bailén from the west, before game end which corresponds with the arrival of General Castaños' forces on the French rear, marching from Andujar.

The scenario map. The French start deployed in the olive groves to the west (left) while the Spanish are arrayed north and south of the road to Andujar on the high ground, forward of the crest line (red line).

1. The battle commences

The Spanish are arrayed on the heights west of Bailén on two hills divided by the road to Andujar as the French enter out from the cover of the orchard groves bordering the Rumblar (bottom).

2. Spanish line west of Bailén, Coupigny's division

On the lower hill south of the road is the Belgian general Coupigny's division, two brigades composed mostly of conscripts, but stiffened by a battery of 6 pdrs. and the Cataluña light infantry, split between brigades and giving skirmish capabilities to the two formations. A small brigade of cavalry are held in reserve and out of sight outside of Bailén.

3. View from Spanish right

On the hills to the north of the road is Reding's division arrayed in line of battle. He is also functioning as the corps commander, with three brigades under his direct command. These are better troops, two of the brigades including Walloon Guards, Swiss and Irish mercenaries while the third is the grenadiers of the Spanish line regiments, brigaded separately. They have two batteries of cannon in support as well as a small brigade of dragoons, held back in reserve.

4. Cavalry in reserve

5. French infantry advance on Spanish left

The French intention to throw all of their infantry against the Spanish left is made immediately obvious as they move forward, Pannetier's brigade in the lead with Chabert's and Schramm's Swiss following. The French are a bit wary of their Swiss mercenaries' loyalties, their having been recently in Spanish employ and now integrated into Dupont's corps. They know full well that their counterparts and compatriots are likely in the army that faces them.

6. French artillery brought up road

Dupont sends his artillery up the road, a single battery emplaced between his infantry and cavalry divisions. The remaining French artillery is still trapped on the road from Andujar, mired amongst the endless wagons of loot stolen from Cordova.

7. Chausseurs and dragoons on the French left

On the French left Frescia's two cavalry brigades (Prive's dragoons and Dupre's chausseurs a cheval) move cautiously from the olive groves but remain a healthy distance form the Spanish cannon. It is the French commander's hope that their presence may be enough to dissuade the Spanish from shifting some of their stronger right wing to the left.

8. Spanish charge…

Taking advantage of a disordered French brigade as a result of cannon fire, in the first surprise move of the battle one of the Spanish brigades abandons its high ground advantage and charges down to engage. It successfully drives the lead French brigade back and briefly stalls their advance.

9. And retreat to the crest of the hill

Realizing it is in a perilous situation the Spanish retreat in line of battle to join up again with its sister brigade on the hill.

10. Spanish driven off crest

In what develops into a seesaw battle the French rally and drive Coupigny's division off the crest, but are unable to take advantage of the situation. The Spanish quickly regain the high ground.

11. Dupre's chausseurs threaten Spanish right

Meanwhile on the Spanish right Dupre's chausseurs advance on the Spanish flank (bottom), moving forward out of the enemy cannon field of fire and threatening to charge the Spanish unsupported line. The dragoons, intended to accompany them, fail to receive Frescia's orders and stay put – something which in the end works to the French advantage.

12. French artillery in trouble

In the second surprise move of the battle Reding's cavalry burst out from their position west of Bailén and overrun the French artillery. In a breakthrough charge they wheel on the French dragoons, who spur to meet them, driving them back. But the French have now lost a major asset – their lone battery – and their dragoons find themselves embroiled with the Spanish cavalry.

13. Chabert's brigade pounded, Spanish regain crest

In a disastrous mélee Chabert's brigade is driven off the crest with heavy casualties and forced into square by an attack by Coupigny's cavalry. The Spanish infantry, now in supported line of battle, regain the crest to confront Schramm's Swiss and Pannetier.

14. Schramm's Swiss in action on the crest

15. Reding on the crest

From the crest of the more northern hills Reding observes the battle. Coupigny's right holds firm, while in the distance Reding's cavalry, outnumbered, are driven back after overrunning the French cannon. He shifts his grenadier brigade to the right to support his right flank, worried about the French chausseurs' advance.

16. Spanish right pulls back

For the second time Reding wheels back his right flank and their attached cannon, keeping the chausseurs in the cannons' field of fire. While staying a safe distance from the enemy horse, he tries to shape his grenadiers into a supporting line behind his lead brigade in expectation of the French charge, but the grenadiers respond sluggishly.

17. Chausseurs seize the moment

Meanwhile the chausseurs have other plans…

18. And turn the Spanish right

Waiting for the gap on the Spanish right to become large enough to allow them to charge past and behind the Spanish lines.

19. Meanwhile on the left

Coupigny's brigades have once more become separated, with one holding off the Swiss while the second stays put to where it has retreated outside Bailén.

20. Overview

At the bottom right Coupigny holds off the Swiss at the crest but is unable to bring his second brigade forward. But the French are having troubles of their own, with Chabert's battered brigade (lower left) unable to move out of square and Pannetier stalled out (bottom middle) on the west side of the crest, unable to support the embattled Swiss.
Meanwhile in the centre the French dragoons form up after counter charging the Spanish cavalry while Reding finally begins to respond to the threat on his far left, moving a brigade down to pour fire into the dragoons flank. But the rest of his force, intact and the strongest Spanish elements available, are slow to get turned around and confront the French horse now ranging behind their lines (upper right).

21. Chausseurs run amok

The chausseurs charge in, destroying a Spanish battery that had limbered up and was moving to bring its guns to bear to the rear.

22. And carry a second Spanish battery!

Their breakthrough charge carries them to a second Spanish battery, and suddenly the Spanish are reduced to one.

23. Dragoons move to support French right

With their flank enfiladed, rather than become embroiled with the Spanish cavalry the dragoons move to support the infantry on the French right. Frescia, with his second brigade over the hill and far away, takes direct command of his dragoons.

24. Schramm's brigade maintains pressure

Still on its own, Schramm's Swiss mercenaries force the Spanish back towards Bailén.

25. Pushing the Spanish back

In the lower right the Swiss force Coupigny's division back, keeping them disordered and off balance. Meanwhile Barbou desperately tries to get his infantry over the crest, but accurate Spanish cannon fire keeps them from resuming their advance.

26. Spanish dragoons hit French from flank

Chabert's bedevilled brigade finally gets out of square only to be hit by Spanish cavalry from the flank, driving them back with more losses. The Spanish breakthrough charge carries on to clash with Pannetier's brigade, having the not unwelcome effect for the French of driving them over the crest they have been unable to move over on their own volition.

27. Overview

Another overview helps makes sense of the vast brawl the battle has become. At the top the Spanish under Reding finally start to get turned around and moving towards the focus of the battle, threatening the chausseurs who are regrouping, winded, after their battery death-dealing charge.
Below one of Redings' battalions along with his cavalry start to form some sort of line in support of Coupigny's lone battery on its hill.
Bottom center Coupigny's cavalry find themselves in a bad situation, winded and outflanked by the French dragoons. Bottom right Chabert's spent brigade stands disordered while Pannetier's, also disordered, is at least finally over the crest and within marching distance of supporting Schramm's battle with Coupigny's division outside of Bailén.
As the French objective is to break through the Spanish lines and exit towards Vedel's advancing division east of Bailén, the way forward is now looking quite open.

28. French dragoons rout Spanish cavalry

With the enemy caught flat-footed and outflanked, Frescia's dragoons easily rout Coupigny's dragoons and then wheel and obliterate Reding's horse as well.

29. Spanish left in deadly danger…

Coupigny's infantry are assaulted by Pannetier's and Schramm's brigades as well as Dupre's chausseurs, charging down from the north. Worn and attacked from three directions, their demise is writ clear.

30. And collapses!

Both Spanish brigades are completely destroyed in the disastrous mélee.

31. Dupont moves majority of forces beyond Bailén

With the Spanish right, still intact and slowly moving in, Dupont sees the way clear and moves off three of his brigades, the chausseurs and Barbou's infantry division. Chabert still stays, wavering and spent, on the far side of the hill (lower left) unable to get his troops moving, while in the upper right, the French dragoons move to exit as well.

32. Too late

Reding's infantry marches down towards Bailén and manages to loose off a few volleys into the retreating dragoons.

33. Dragoons withdraw

34. Chabert's brigade destroyed

Abandoned and alone, Chabert's diminished brigade is unable to get going and Reding's third brigade advances. With the aid of cannon fire the French brigade is annihilated, a small Spanish victory within their larger defeat, as Dupont's forces batter their way through the enemy line and move on to join up with Vedel to the west. As the last French exit the very first of General Castaños' force arrive from Andujar, too late to influence the outcome of the battle.
The results of the battle left the French with an overwhelming victory, destroying two cavalry and two infantry brigades as well as two of the three Spanish batteries, while exiting their forces from the board as per the scenario objective. The Spanish in turn overran the lone French battery and destroyed the largest of the French infantry brigades but in the end failed in keeping the French from breaking through and escaping to the east.

Spanish Order of Battle

lst Division: Lt. General T. Reding (Right Wing)
3/Wallon Guard Infantry Regiment 852
Voluntarios de Barbastro Infantry Regiment 331
Tercio de Tejas 436
Olivencia Dragoon Regiment 160
Numancia Dragoon Regiment 140
la Reina Dragoon Regiment 100
Montesa Cavalry Regiment 120* (1 sqdn.)
Farnesio Cavalry Regiment 213
lst Voluntarios de Granada Infantry Regiment 525*(3rd and 6th Btn.)
Irlanda Infantry Regiment 1824*(1st Bt.)
Reina Infantry Regiment 795
6th Voluntarios de Granada Infantry Regiment 343
Corona Infantry Regiment 854*
Jaen Infantry Regiment 922* (2 cos.)
Reding #3 (Swiss) Infantry Regiment 1100
Milicia Provincial de Jaen 500*
Garrochistas de Utrera (Lancer Regiment) 70
Garrochistas de Jerez (Lancer Regiment) 34
Sappers (2 cos) 166

2nd Division: Mariscal de Campo Marques de Coupigny (Left Wing)
Voluntarios de Cataluña Infantry Regiment 1178
Fijo de Ceuta Infantry Regiment 1208
Provincial de Granada Infantry Regiment 400*
Provincial de Trujillo Infantry Regiment 290
Provincial de Bujalance Infantry Regiment 403
Provincial de Cuenca Infantry Regiment 501
Provincial de Ciudad Real Infantry Regiment 420
Voluntarios de Granada Infantry Regiment 912
Borbon Cavalry Regiment 333
España Cavalry Regiment 120
Sapper Company (1 co) 100
(Note: Asterix mark Spanish units that, partially or wholey, were part of the rearguard west of Bailén and therefore not part of 
this battle.)

French Order of Battle

lst Division: General de division Barbou
1. Brigade: General de brigade Pannetier
1 and 2/3rd Legion of Reserve 1743
2/1st and 2/2nd Garde de Paris 941
Imperial Guard Marines 550

2. Brigade: General de brigade Chabert
1,2 and 3/4th Legion of Reserve 2458
 2/4th Swiss Regiment (Red french uniform) 602
1 Battery foot artillery

Division Rouyer: General de Division Rouyer (not present)
Brigade: General de brigade Schramm
Reding & Preux Swiss Regiment (Blue Spanish uniform) 1573

Division Fresia: General de division Frescia
Brigade: General de brigade Prive
lst Provisional Dragoon Regiment 720
2nd Provisional Dragoon Regiment 640
2nd Provisional Curiassiers  (1/2 regiment) 300
Brigade: General de brigade Dupre
lst Provisional Chasseur a Cheval Regiment 510
2nd Provisional Chasseur a Cheval Regiment 580


  1. Great battle report! Like the terrain and figures, well done.

  2. Thanks for a comprehensive report. I am looking at doing a refight of Medina del Rioseco sometime this coming year (need to paint some more Spanish). Strictly Spanish v French games are highly entertaining.

  3. Thanks, Brian. Yes, I plan to work on a few more scenarios too. I'm curious to see if you take away the incompetency and arrogance prevalent in the Spanish high command whether you can get better results than the historic record. I'm thinking probably yes!

  4. I cannot remember where I read it but I do remember seeing somewhere that in 1808 there were over 2000 Colonels and Generals in the 'Spanish Army'. I guess that is why you get five Spanish generals for one English one in most wargame rules :)

  5. This battlefield is amazing, congrats...A splendid report with wonderful details!

  6. Cheers, Phil. I know, a lot of detail for such a little game!

  7. Excellent work, and all in 1/72! I like your little details like ox-drawn artillery limbers. Lovely tabletop terrain, too.