Sunday, February 24, 2019

Espinosa de los Monteros, November 11, 1808 (A refight)

We did a refight of the battle of Espinosa de los Monteros based on a scenario I wrote a couple of years ago (an earlier AAR can be found here). Spoiler alert, but the Spanish lost again, this time badly through no fault of my poor opponent who was unable to conjure anything over five on a 10-sided die while I regularly rolled tens. The Spanish, of course, did historically lose this battle but when you look at the ground it was a strong position and I still think, all things being equal, that the Spanish should be able to make a good go of it.
I was a bit slack on the photos, really only recording the mid-to-end game, but you should get the picture…

The battle was fought using Age of Eagles II rules and with 1/72 scale miniatures, almost entirely HaT with a smattering of Emhar, all from my own collection. The scenario can be found at this link.

The scenario map. The Spanish under Blake hold a line east of Espinosa, from the small hill in the south to the ridge line of the centre of the high ground. Perrin's French enter east of Quintana de los Prados.

1. View from the French lines

Blake arrays his forces in front of Espinosa de los Monteros, placing his best troops in the centre and high ground (right of picture) while his irregular Andalusians under Acevedo hold a small hill bordered by the river on the Spanish right (left of picture). 

2. View from the high ground

Figuero’s Hiberians anchor the high ground on the Spanish left, with Romano’s division to their right and strong reserves behind.

3. View from behind the Spanish lines

In the centre is Riquelme’s 3rd Division, holding an area of difficult terrain crisscrossed with stone walls while Martinengo supports both him and the Asturian militia on the right.

4. Fast forward

As mentioned, the camera was forgotten for a good portion of the game. So…

The French attack was based on a demonstration with Lapisse’s division to tie up the Spanish Marshal Blake’s forces on the high ground on the French right while Vilatte and Ruffin attacked french left and centre (foreground). 
The Spanish moved forward to try and deny the French the advantage of the stone-walled terrain in the centre, but by the time this photo was taken had been driven back by Vilatte so that the French now control that area.
Ruffin (foreground) has advanced through the woods and is arrayed in front of the Asturians preparing to drive them from a low hill on this flank while Martinenego’s 2nd Division has been driven back into Espinosa by Vilatte, badly battered.

5. Stand off on Spanish left

Meanwhile, after advancing rapidly, Perrin is happy to have Lapisse hold a position in the wooded valley below the Spanish left, pinning as many of the enemy as possible here on the high ground. Blake feeds some of his reserve into this line to strenghten it.

6. Ruffin's division pushes Asturians back

After a brief setback in which the small Spanish cavalry brigade attacks before being driven off, routed, Ruffin decisively pushes the Spanish back.

7. Asturians retreat

The Asturian militia is driven back over the Rio Trubera and slowly melt off into the hills, surrendering to French control the Spanish right.

8. French assault Espinosa

Ruffin and one of Vilatte’s brigades now focus their attention on driving the remnants of Martinenego’s 
battered division out of Espinosa.

9. Spanish right in tatters

With Martinenego driven out of Espinosa the Spanish right is enveloped by Ruffin’s brigade.

10. Overview

This overview shows from bottom to top:
The Asturian militia retreating form the field, while above them Ruffin occupies Espinosa. The Spanish have proven surprisingly sticky, Mahy’s brigade driving back one of Vilatte’s deep into the stone-walled area although the second (Vilatte’s élite light infantry, with the general in personal command) successfully and somewhat unwisely has driven deep into the Spanish lines.
At the top the cream of Blake’s army still holds the high ground untouched while Marshal Perrin is happy to have General Lapisse hold his position in front of them while he works to roll up the Spanish right.

11. Pacthod's light infantry drive deep into Spanish line (centre left)

12. Spanish counterattack

After driving off one French brigade, Spanish marshal Mahy, in direct command, wheels and drives into the flank of Pacthod’s light infantry. This French brigade has been unlucky from the beginning, driven off early and then suffering under Spanish cannon fire before this point. Musketry and cannon fire reduce them further and they are sent reeling back by the Spanish, spent, and Vilatte is captured - the Spanish’s first and only real success of the day!

13. French begin to roll up Spanish right

Ruffin is now firmly established on the Spanish right flank and emerging from Espinosa to assault the high ground and roll up the Spanish right. The fight has gone out of the Spanish now (testing at -6 and more on maneuvers as a result of losses) and Blake is unable to block the French advance as his troops begin to break and fall back towards the rear.
Lapisse’s brigades now assault the high ground as the Spanish give way, and his troops capture the Spanish cannon.

14. Overview

French advance solidly in line while Pacthod's battered brigade can be seen in retreat far right.

15. Between a rock and a hard place

Mahy’s brigade, Heroes of Espinosa, alone on what remains of the Spanish right are assaulted from front and flank and rout entirely from the battlefield.

16. Spanish retreat from field

With now superior French forces encroaching on all fronts the remnants of Blake’s army retreat into the mountains, leaving the field to a decisive French victory.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Portuguese Caçadores

I decided recently to add a battalion of Portuguese Caçadores to my Portuguese contingent of Wellington's army, light troops that fought with distinction alongside the British throughout the Peninsular campaign.
There are not many good sets of these available in 1/72. Emhar makes a set of Caçadores and infantry mixed, but I find the poses a bit stiff, the detail too lightly defined and the Caçadores in this set wear the earlier shako, similar to the British Belgic shako, which was quickly replaced with the stovepipe. There are some very fine Caçadore metal figures available through Hagen (from whom I purchased my Portuguese line infantry) but I needed them sooner than a trans-Atlantic order would take.
So I took a hard look at my HaT Peninsular British and decided they they would not be a difficult conversion. The biggest issue was the backpack and canteen - I could find no good reference for the packs and kit these troops used, and the Osprey images, as so often is the case, stubbornly show only the front of the figure. Then I had a "Eureka" moment, finding elsewhere in the Osprey book the image below, a period illustration showing Caçadores (Voluntarios Reales do Principe, formed in 1815) as they appeared in Brazil in 1815-16. Clearly shown is the British style backpack and canteen and notes indicated that the canteen was green. Whether this was the case with the earlier Caçadores, I don't know, but I elected to move ahead basing them on this information.

Caçadores in Brazil 1815-16 with British-style equipment.

The only conversions were to carve the lace off the cuff, give the cuff a point, alter the shoulder tufts into wings and, as a conceit, give them all moustaches.
 I was happy with the results but you can judge for yourself.

A bit of history...

6th Caçadores, 1811. Although this image shows the soldier with an ammunition pouch at the belt, the illustration of Caçadores above and show them with strapped ammunition pouches worn British style.
The Caçadores (Portuguese for "hunters") were established in 1808 in order to give the Portuguese army, in the process of being reorganized, a light infantry contingent. The previous light troops, The Legion of Light Troops had been disbanded in 1807 and most of the men drafted into the French Portuguese Legion.
The first six battalions were authorized on October 14, 1808, with each battalion attached to a Portuguese city, as was the case with Portuguese line infantry. On 20 April, 1811 six more battalions were added to the Caçadores.
The Caçadores were trained in British light infantry tactics and over time gained a reputation as daring elite troops, fighting with distinction in Wellington's army throughout the Peninsular War.
The 6th Battalion, which these figures are based on, was located at Vila Real, fought at Busaco in 1810, Fuentes d'Orno and Arroyo dos Molinos in 1811, Alamaraz and Vitoria in 1812 and Nivelle in 1813.
6th Caçadores

6th Caçadores in skirmish formation. I based these on magnetic bases so they could do double duty is stands four up and skirmishers two up.

Command stand. The officer is an altered Hagen Line Infantry figure, based on the officer in the Osprey book.

Command stand

Caçadore stand.Conversions were adding a pointed cuff and changing shoulder tufts to wings.

Rear view.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Battle of Roliça, August 17th, 1808

There are a number of Peninsular battles that I have wanted to try out that are for the most part better suited to a battalion level game rather than the brigade level Age of Eagles II rules that I have been playing. Roliça is one of those, essentially a division per side although the British outnumber the French by a considerable amount. This however is counter-balanced by the victory conditions, which give the British a fairly short time to achieve their objectives and the French two positions, one very strong, from which to thwart them.
Historically Delaborde was essentially fighting a delaying action until French reinforcements could arrive from Abrantes. Wellesley, knowing this, opted to attack without delay when he saw Delacorde taking up his positions on the high ground adjacent to the village of Roliça. When Delaborde saw that the British were attempting to outflank him he adroitly retreated to his second position on a ridge further south, steep and assailable on only narrow fronts.

This scenario was played on a 6' X 9' table using 1/72 scale miniatures. Brian North and I played with Brian's home grown rules and based the scenario on one which can be found here on JJ's Wargames. This game gave me the opportunity to trot out all of my newly painted British along with the red-coated Swiss and my Portuguese Caçadores done especially for this scenario. We only got through the first half but will reconvene for the battle for the ridge sometime in March.

1.The British advance on Roliça

The British advance on Delaborde’s first position adjacent to the village of Roliça. The French Line (1/70th and 2/70th) along with a couple of companies of the 4th Swiss and the 26th Chausseurs (out of picture bottom right), under the direct command of Delaborde occupy the high ground west of the village while the two battalions of Legér are massed in and around Roliça under the command of General de Brigade Brennier.
The British advance with Hill’s brigade on the right (bottom - 1/5th, 1/9th and 1/38th), Nightingale’s centre (29th and 1/82nd) and Fane’s on the left (top) opposite Roliça. 
Crauford’s brigade (1/50th, 1/91st and 6th Caçadores) advances in reserve behind Nightingale along with the Allied horse (20th Light Dragoons and Portuguese cavalry).

2. The French lines as seen from the southern ridge

Delacorde has no intention of making his stand here, on the high ground next to Roliça (upper right) when he has a much stronger position on the ridge to the south (south of Columbeira, seen here lower left). His intention is only to delay the British long enough to allow the rest of the Army of Portugal to deploy across the front of the British march on Lisbon.

3. French right in Roliça

Brennier positions his troops in Roliça with one battalion of light infantry in skirmish formation in and around the village while the second waits in column to the rear.

4. Fane's brigade advances on Roliça

Fane’s Rifle companies (2/95th and 5/60th - here dressed as 95th!) advance on Roliça in skirmish formation while the 38th follows up.

5. British Rifles skirmish with Brennier's Léger

6. Wellesley surveys the battlefield

From the high ground north of Roliça Wellesley watches with satisfaction as his troops deploy in this, his first Peninsular battle.

7. Crauford and Nightingale in the British centre

8. Hill advances on the Roliça high ground

French and British skirmishers exchange fire as Hill’s three battalions advance with the hope of enveloping the French flank.

9. French cavalry driven off

Delaborde sees an opportunity to harass the British right and sends in his 26th Chauseurs under command of one of his ADC’s, but after driving in the Northumberland’s skirmishers, the British line forms up and sees them off smartly with a telling volley.

10. Fane's Rifles move in to seize the north side of Roliça

Meanwhile on the right Fane send in his Rifles to engage the French skirmishers scattered around Roliça and seize the northern most houses. The British gain a foothold in these houses and engage in skirmishing with the French who occupy the southern half of the village.

11. Overview

At the bottom Fane’s rifles skirmish with Bennier’s Legér around Roliça while (centre) Nightingale moves to force the French off the high ground with Crauford in reserve. The British cannon engage the French artillery which begins thinning Nightingale’s and Hill’s ranks.
At the very top (British right flank) Hill’s 5th sees off Delaborde’s cavalry after a failed attempt by the French horse to rattle the British flank.

12. British and Portuguese cavalry move to support right flank

Wellesley sends one of his ADC’s over to lead the 20th Light Dragoons (using Hussar stand-ins) and Portuguese horse against the French on the British right, before they can regroup and charge again while the 5th forms up to charge the two companies of Swiss (red coats in the hedgerow!) skirmishing on their flank and holding up Hill’s advance.

13. Hill and Nightingale push forward

As the British push forward Delaborde gradually withdraws his troops from the high ground. The French cannon fire continues to tell on the British lines, while a deadly skirmish battle rages between the two sides. 

14. Brennier's Legér abandon Roliça

As the troops on Brennier’s left fall back Brennier himself, (left side of picture), on the loosing end of the skirmish battle for Roliça, also begins to withdraw the two battalions under his command.  Fane throws the 45th and his Rifles into an assault on the town, hoping to drive out the Legér left behind as a rearguard, but the first attempt is driven off.

15. Allied cavalry drive off the 26th Chausseurs

The opposing cavalry clash on the British right  and again the 26th come out on the loosing end. Meanwhile the 5th (upper right) are spared having to rout out the 4th Swiss who, vastly outnumbered and seeing the British forming up for the charge, throw down their arms and surrender.

16. Overview

On the right side of the picture the French can be seen in full withdrawal from the British as they retreat to their second position on the ragged ridge south of Columbeira. Final rounds of the British cannon destroyed the French battery, so Delaborde will be fighting the next phase of the battle without artillery.
At the top centre Crauford assumes the lead from Nightigale’s tired troops, who shift left. Under a hail of small arms fire, the last of Brennier’s Legér still in Roliça bolt from the houses and rejoin their parent battalion, also in full withdrawal. Fane’s brigade regroups from its fighting for Roliça and hustles up on the British far left.
Hill also follows up on the British right, but more slowly, having taken the brunt of the French artillery fire, as his troops accept the surrender of the Swiss, bottom centre.

17. Wellesley watches as the French retreat from their first position towards the southern ridge

18. The last French bolt from the village

The French rearguard left in Roliço falls back upon its supports

19. French withdrawal

The distance between the French and British widens as Wellesley realigns his troops, throwing Crauford’s fresh troops into the advance in the centre.

20. Delaborde observes the withdrawal

21. British form up in preparation for the second phase

As the French retreat to the high ground of the steep ridge south of Columbeira, the British form up behind their skirmishers in attack columns in order to negotiate the narrow gullies that give access to the top of the ridge.

The aftermath of the first half saw both sides trading off equal casualties, mostly through skirmish and cannon fire as the French refused to be engaged in this forward position. Probably the French would have come out the better except for the loss of their Swiss, who surrendered en masse (as they did historically).

Part 2 to come when Brian returns to Canada in March to resume our battle. Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Red-coated French - the Swiss 4th Infantry Regiment

As I was just coming off painting numerous battalions of British and had my red-coat-painting chops well-exercised I was eager to get this Swiss regiment on the table. As so often is the case, I was also inspired by the fact that my gaming buddy and fellow Peninsular War aficionado Brian North was going to be back in Canada (he lives in Europe so we have a trans-Atlantic gaming schedule) and we had agreed to play out the Battle of Roliça, where the 4th Swiss were present.
Out with the bottles of red again. Other than the colour of coat, which Napoleon allowed his Swiss mercenaries to retain in recognition of their - um - Swissness, the uniforms were essentially the same as French Line. 

A little history...

The intention originally was to raise six demi-brigades of Swiss following the occupation of Switzerland by French revolutionary forces in 1778 but this recruitment was less than successful. In 1805 Napoleon authorized the recruitment of a Swiss infantry regiment, and three more were created in October of 1807. All regiments fought well, in both Spain and Russia, their musketry so well-controlled that French general Merle remarked, "It was pity that the Swiss couldn't handle two muskets at once, if they could I would issue them."
In the Peninsula the Swiss fought in numerous battles, including the battle of Bailen where, with Dupont on the verge of defeat,  the Swiss battalions in Schramm's brigade famously deserted to their Swiss mercenary counterparts in the Spanish army! 

The 4th Regiment was engaged in the following battles in the Peninsula:
1808 - Lisbon, Alcolea, Obidos, Roliça and Vimeiro
1809- Chaves, Tuy and Oporto
1810 - Vallavoid

Saturday, December 29, 2018

95th Rifles (and magnetic skirmisher basing)

The entire unit, with bases of four at the back and individually based units in the foreground. Figures are 1/72 Italeri, a beautifully sculpted set. I read some criticism that they would not often have fought with the sword bayonets or forage caps, but I like the look of both. I originally cut off the sword bayonets in the individual figures but have left them on for the four mans stands.
I decided to add the 95th Rifles as my next addition to my growing British Peninsular War army. The British 95th Rifles don't need much introduction as they are a well known unit and much loved by wargamers. Up until now I hadn't really required them as the rule set I play is a brigade level game and the Rifles were generally parcelled out amongst the various brigades as extra skirmish troops, a company or two at a time. But I am moving towards gaming at a battalion level, especially for some of the smaller-sized Peninsular engagements and needed these in the mix as they fought throughout the Peninsular War in wellington's army.
My original intention was to base some on individual stands to act as skirmishers when required and others in group stands when I needed them in a more formal arrangement (march columns and line formations - rare for the Rifles but I believe they did fight in line on occasion). But I soon realized that this seemed an inordinate amount of figure painting as I needed to have duplicates for each unit, especially as I would need some skirmish units for all of my regiments in the future.
So I came up with the following basing scheme, probably not original to me but one that I think works very well. It allows for paired skirmish stands (which will work) and uses flexible magnet sheets purchased at a dollar store.
The only trick was pairing the magnets before I cut the top and bottom bases, as different magnets would sometimes offset the paired bases slightly through repulsion. As a result, I needed to number the base and its corresponding figures - not a big deal. I was happy with the result and am now in the process of converting the light company stands in all my existing regiments to this basing.
I thought other gamers might appreciate the idea.

Magnet basing. Two smaller stands paired with the larger four man stand. They needed to be paired before cutting and numbered as some magnets repulsed slightly, creating an offset.

Paired stands in skirmish formation. I think this still gives a good effect!

The command stand (a paired magnet stand, as all the four man stands are for my Rifles, allowing them to skirmish 100% - pretty seamless!) I love the front figure at right with his cradled rifle.