Friday, September 20, 2019

Battle of Vimiero - Vimiero Hill 21st August 1808

We played through Jonathan Jones' excellent Vimiero scenario from his scenario book O'er the Hills, twice over the past week. The first time I refereed as a couple of players new to the rules battled it out to an exciting British victory, and the second time (this report) I squared off against the doughty Brian North. Brian and I had played this scenario before but I mixed up the table size and we fought it out on a battlefield half the proper size! So this was a rematch, this time on the proper 6’ X 9’ table, which changed everything.

We played this using Over the Hills rules in 1/72nd with my toys (Brian’s are in his home in Italy!) with distances scaled appropriately. The scenario was played out over 8 rounds, as written, with the caveat that we added a second battery to the grenadiers as indicated by Oman’s history. Vimiero is a tough nut to crack, so we figured the French could use it!

The Battlefield
Wellesley begins the battle with his army spaced out on Vimiero Hill (right). His light infantry and Rifles are positioned on the forward slopes while his line battalions occupy the ridgeline and area behind it. Acland, just arriving, will enter behind the village of Vimiero (lower right) while Taylor’s horse anchor the British far right flank.

The British right
Anstruther positions the 2/52nd and 2/97th on the ridgeline with the 2/9th and 2/43rd behind. His light battalion takes up skirmish positions in front while his right is covered by the 6 pdr. battery and Taylor's horse (only Portuguese Dragoons showing in this picture).

Wellesley in the centre
From the centre of the ridge Wellesley oversees the deployment.

Acland's 2nd Foot approach Vimiero
With the French sighted, Acland's 2nd Foot and four companies of the 1/20th hasten up to Vimiero in support of this flank. The 1/20th occupy Vimiero while the 50th goes into line to the left of Fane's 1/50th Foot.

Fane waits with his 6th Brigade on the left of Vimiero Hill as the French appear in the distance

Junot establishes his headquarters in the centre

Charlot's 2nd Briagde on the French left
The 3/82me and 3/32me approach cautiously through the woods behind a screen of detached voltigeurs.

Thomieres advances behind his skirmish screen
On the French right Thomieres also advances in column behind his skirmish screen, with the small battalion of 4me Suisse and Thomieres' guns bringing up the rear.

Thomieres' 1st Brigade advances on the French right

Thomieres straddling the Vimiero road

Allied horse descend from the hill
The Allied horse (British and Portuguese dragoons) descend from the hill, maneuvering onto Charlot’s flank as he emerges from the woods. The French dragoons, now arrived, advance up the French middle while Charlot places his troops in square to protect the French left flank (top right).

View of French advance from Anstruther’s far right
View from Anstruther’s far right, with the British 6 pdrs. lobbing some long ranging shots at Charlot’s squares.

View from the centre of the ridge
View from the ridge as the second British battery fires ineffectively at Thomieres' troops advancing in assault columns behind their skirmish lines. As the enemy unlimber their cannon (Thomieres' now joined by Kellerman's) Wellesley deploys Fane's light troops and Rifles into skirmish lines and pulls his line regiments back behind the ridge.

Fane pushes his Rifles into the orchards southeast of Vimiero
Fane pushes his 2/95th Rifles into the orchards southeast of Vimiero to harass the flank of Thomieres’ battalion advancing on the French far right. Acland by this point has garrisoned Vimiero with the four companies of 1/20th Foot while his 2nd Foot (not visible to the lower right) deploys right to join up with Fane’s 1/50th on Vimiero hill.
Behind the guns Kellerman and St. Clair’s provisional grenadier battalions have now entered the field, moving up towards the British centre.

The British right, slowly shifts towards Fane
Anstruther, on the British right, slowly shifts left towards Fane and Vimiero, moving in tandem with the British 6 pdrs. (hand hauled) far out on the right, and tightening up the British position as it becomes clear that the French attack will fall on the British centre.

The French dragoons charge
The French dragoons charge the British dragoons covering the British flank, but move in enfilade across the face of the British guns. Their charge is broken by cannon and small arms fire, and they rout before even making contact!

Routing French dragoons

95th Rifles threaten Thomieres flank. 
Meanwhile, on the opposite flank the 95th Rifles form up and move out of the orchard to threaten Thomieres flank. The French turn and charge, and after bloody close quarter fighting, with both sides sending volley after volley into the opposing force, they stumble back, bloodied and reeling.

Bottom left the Rifles engage Thomieres’ 1/86me while above Fane and Anstruther have pushed their lines back over the forward side of the ridge. The 5/60th skirmishing on this flank, after absorbing a considerable amount of French cannon fire and driving off Thomieres’ light troops have evaded behind the lines to lick their wounds.

Dragoons again clash with British horse
Junot orders all his troops into the attack.As the French throw themselves at the British lines a second dragoon regiment charges across the uneven terrain of Vimiero Hill and is sent packing by the doughty British dragoons.

Dragoons advance on the British 6 pdrs. 
A third dragoon regiment advances on the British 6 pdr. guns and are met with withering fire.

The 2/86me storms the centre British battery
At the same time Thomieres second large battalion, the 2/86me (lower left) storms the centre British battery as Junot drives his troops forward mercilessly! They are driven back reeling by canister shot at short range while two of Anstruther's battalions, with French horse swirling all around, go into square.

Bottom foreground the cavalry clash while above this another regiment of French horse storm the British guns. Top left Thomieres' does the same with the 2/86me while to the right Charlot, slow to react, starts to shake out of square and bring his own troops into the fray.

French attempt to break Wellesley’s centre
In the British centre the French make a massive attempt to try to break Wellesley’s line. On the left in front of the French guns St. Clair sends one of his grenadier battalions against Fane’s small light brigade battalion. Next to this Thomieres’ battered battalion, driven off once, rallies again and battles its way up the slope to the enemy guns. To their right the second of St. Clair’s grenadier battalions charge a small British square while to the right of these the French horse charge into a hail of canister. Finally, on the far right yet another French horse regiment closes with the 20th Light Dragoons. 

A third regiment of French horse clash with the 20th Light Dragoons...

Which are also routed and sent packing!

While the last French horse regiment perishes in front of the British 6 pdrs.

But French attacks strike home!
Other than the loss of the last of their dragoons in front of the 6 pdrs. the rest of the French attacks strike home. Anstruther’s light battalion caught in square by St. Clair’s grenadiers are annihilated while Thomieres, suffering heavily in the teeth of the guns still manages to overrun them, spiking the guns before falling back, wavering and battered.
On the French centre left the grenadiers scatter Fane’s small force of light infantry, which rout from the field, but then, on charging on to the ridge are crushed by a British countercharge by Anstruther that sweeps the French grenadier battalion off the hill.

St. Clair's grenadiers rout through the French guns

Taylor and Wellesley rally the British horse
After sending off three French regiments of horse in quick succession Taylor’s exhausted light dragoons carry on to hit Charlot’s lead battalion in the flank. But despite failing to form square, Charlot survives the charge and the battered dragoons break off. In retreat they take enfilade fire from Charlot’s second battalion in square and this is enough to cause them to rout. But Taylor and Wellesley intervene, rallying the British horse and stopping them from fleeing the battlefield.

Anstruther's 2/52nd volley and charge, breaking Thomieres 2/86me
But Junot has shot his bolt. Anstruther, seeing Thomieres’ left battalion reeling, volleys and charges, breaking it completely. With Thomieres down to one large but battered battalion and a tiny Swiss detachment (4me Suisse) on the French far right and St. Clair’s grenadiers either routed or wavering this leaves only Kellerman’s small grenadier battalions and Charlot’s intact brigade still in fighting form.

Fanes' Rifles and Acland envelop French right
Meanwhile on the British far left Fane has sent over the 5/60th to aid the 2/95th Rifles in the orchards southeast of Vimiero. Acland, too, marches his 2nd Foot over to rejoin the 1/20th Foot (bottom centre) garrisoning Vimiero, as the British work their way around the French right flank.

Overview from southeast of Vimiero

The 1/86me charges Fane’s line infantry
Junot decides it is time to withdraw from the field but his orders fail to arrive and his brigadiers continue to press on with the attack. Thomieres’ surviving battalion, the 1/86me, still badly mauled from its battle with the 95th Rifles, charges Fane’s 1/50th.

1/50th overruns the French batteries
The 1/50th volleys and counter charges, surviving a hail of canister from the French guns to crush the French battalion before carrying on to overrun the French batteries, completely destroying the French right and leaving only the tiny 4me Suisse on this flank.

Charlot’s battalion destroys British 6 pdrs.
With the 20th Light Dragoons routing Charlot’s lead battalion finally arrives in assault column and overwhelms the remaining British battery, spiking the guns before falling back. The Portuguese horse charge but break off when the 3/82me this time successfully forms square.

Final clashes
One last attack by the British break the tiny Swiss battalion (top left) and put Fane’s 1/50th on Kellerman’s flank. Anstruther’s regiments' volley and charge on Kellerman (centre left) and Charlot (right) are less successful as both sides duke it out for three rounds and then fall back battered. However Charlot’s battalion gets tangled up in a vineyard in retreat and the confusion is enough to cause his troops to rout...

... as do Anstruther's 2/9th

Junot in full retreat
The battle ends with Junot in full retreat, using his squares to cover against Taylor’s horse until his other troops are able to fall to the rear. One lone regiment of horse has managed to rally far back (as has St. Clair’s second grenadier battalion) but as part of a broken brigade the horse can only slow their retreat but not help cover the general withdrawal.

Overview at end of end of battle
In this end of battle overview Fane and Acland (foreground) are still in a position to envelop the French flank and Anstruther and Taylor’s horse will soon enough be threatening the French centre and left, but the battle concludes here, with the French player eager for a rematch one day. Hope you enjoyed the report!

Here is our butcher’s bill at the end of the game:

French losses
Margaron's Cavalry Brigade (Three of the four provisional dragoon regiments broken)
Thomieres' 1st Brigade (Thomieres’ 2/86th Line, 1/86th Line and 4th Suisse broken)
Two batteries

Kellerman - one battalion Reserve Grenadiers
Charlot’s 3/32nd Line

St. Clair - one battalion Reserve Grenadiers

British losses
Two batteries
Fane's Light Battalion
Anstruther's Light Battalion


Anstruther's 2/9th Line


  1. Really dramatic, no messing about - as it was. Reads like an account of the actual battle. Lovely pics and terrain as always. Will get you next time!

  2. I have no doubt you will, Brian. A la prochaine!