The name of this battle always brings to my mind the infamous Medellin Cartel from Columbia in the 1970s and 1980s. I'm not quite sure whose side they were on this day...
It’s not easy playing Spanish in Napoleonic wargaming, especially historical games based on the early years of the Peninsular War. In most battles the Spanish army was hampered by poor command, questionable tactical deployment and large numbers of relatively fragile volunteer units. A victory for the Spanish would be a momentous outcome; generally the aim is to see how well they can perform.
It was Mark who 'bravely' took the Spanish for our game based on the Battle of Medellin using the scenario from Chris Leach's Fields of Glory. As you’ll see from the report below, he gave it a good go and, despite the inherent limitations, coupled with some crucial, terrible die rolls, he got close to an unlikely victory, before it all fell apart completely.
|Game Map from Fields of Glory|
|Our table with large ridge at front right and smaller ridge (Latour-Maubourg's start position) at front left.|
The Spanish army begins the game deployed in the C18th-style that Cuesta had adopted, viz. a long line of divisions with no support and no reserves (see map and photos of initial deployment). Victor's smaller, more flexible and better trained army is deployed in a narrower line with the infantry divisions in the centre and the mixed divisions of Lasalle and Latour-Maubourg on each flank. The scale of victory for each side is determined by the number of enemy and friendly divisions ‘broken’. This is a common approach, but has been "stacked" such that the use of Ruffin's division lowers the level of a French victory; sufficient challenge to the chest-puffing pride of any wargamer playing French almost ensuring that the he will not use Ruffin, adding to the balance of the game!
|Spanish advance, Henestrosa's hussars in foreground|
|Spanish advance seen from French lines (Latour-Maubourg closest to camera)|
|Albuqueque's dragoons advance on Lasalle's flank|
So it was that the Spanish surged forward, but the attack did not go well and, after the first three turns it looked like an early end to the game and to our first wargaming day for sometime.
On the Spanish right, the attack was lead by the Duc d’Albuquerque’s cavalry. They came into combat with Lasalle’s chasseurs on Turn 2, a mêlée in which they were beaten but not broken. The following turn Spanish units were engaged all along the line, only to lose seven mêlées in a row!
|Albuquerque’s dragoons worsted|
|Lasalle's victorious chasseurs à chevall supported by the 2nd hussars|
|Henestrosa's Rgt. Húsares de Extremadura/Españoles advance towards Latour-Maubourg's dragoons|
|Henestrosa's Hussars meet Latour-Maubourg's 20th/26th dragoons|
|Latour-Maubourg's infantry await Del Parque's attack|
|Orders is orders, Trias' dragoons v guns|
|Vilatte's division receives Portago's attack|
|Overview of Turn 3 with Henestrosa's command nearest camera|
|Del Parque's attack|
|Portago's troops in retreat|
|Turn 5, Trias' division isolated in centre|
The remaining Spanish division’s continued to advance, with the exception of Albuquerque’s, and, slowly but surely they achieved some success.
|20th/26th dragoons prepare to support Latour-Maubourg's infantry...|
|...which are under great pressure from Del Parque & Henestrosa's infantry|
|Lasalle taunts Spanish squares|
|Vilatte's drive across the vacant centre|
Turn 7. Having beaten Latour-Maubourg’s Hessians (Gross und Erbprinz regiment, heavily disguised as French light infantry) Henestrosa’s and Del Parque’s men drove at the remaining two units of Latour-Maubourg’s infantry on the ridge. The 1st Nassau battalion (newly painted by Mark) stood firm, but the 2nd battalion, perhaps because they too were heavily disguised as French light infantry, was beaten and retreated.
|2nd/14th dragoons prepare to charge Henestrosa's infantry|
|Spanish "high tide"; Del Parque and Henestrosa's infantry on the ridge|
These Spanish successes were offset by the loss of Trias’ division which fell below 1/4 strength and automatically broke. This left Vilatte’s strong division free to drive across the battlefield towards Del Parque’s division.
The game concluded on Turn 9. Latour-Maubourg’s 2nd/14th dragoons which had charged and dispatched two of Henestrosa’s second rate infantry regiments Rgt. Lig de la Serena and Rgt. Lig. Vols Plasencia in Turn 8, which then fell below half-strength and failed divisional morale.
|2nd Nassau battalion (heavy disguised) advance to join countrymen on ridge against Del Parque and Henestrosa's infantry|
|Vilatte's inexorable advance|
|2nd/14th dragoons guard French right flank|
• Of three French divisions, Lasalle’s ended the game at half strength, Latour-Maubourg’s below one-third strength and Vilatte’s division was near full strength.
• For the Spanish, Portago’s, Triad’s and Del Parque’s divisions were broken, Albuquerque’s was above half-strength (just) and held firm while and Henestrosa’s was at two-thirds strength.
It was a clear French victory, but could so easily have gone the other way.