005 Talavera (28 July 1809)
Talavera - 28 July 1809
Sir Arthur Wellesley crossed into Spain and on July 20th joined with General Cuesta’s beaten Spanish Army to oppose two French armies under Soult and Victor. Hearing of the allied advance, Soult proposed that Victor attack to hold the British and Spanish armies while he marched south and placed his army between Wellesley and his base in Portugal.
On the evening of 27th July, the British and Spanish were deployed around Talavera with the Spanish holding the strongest defensive terrain.
A line of high ground, the Cerro de Medellin, formed the main position for the British troops.
Victor’s approaching army had been reinforced by a corps under Sebastiani and a large body of cavalry under King Jerome Bonaparte. Victor decided to assault the Cerro de Medellin without delay and ordered Ruffin’s Division to make a night attack. The French broke through the surprised British troops and one gallant regiment actually reached the crest before being driven off by reserves. Next morning, Ruffin’s division attacked again. As the infantry reached the crest of the hill, volleys from the waiting British caused fearful execution in Ruffin’s columns. The British then charged and drove the French back across Portina brook.
There was a pause as the French leadership decided its next move. Joseph ordered Sebastiani to attack along with Ruffin’s depleted division.
Meanwhile, Victor’s remaining infantry attempted to outflank the British line. Sebastiani and Ruffin were driven back while Wellesley countered the flanking move with cavalry. The French infantry formed square and drove the cavalry off with heavy loss. Joseph did not commit his last reserves. During the night he ordered the French army to retreat.
The stage is set. The battle lines are drawn and you are in command. Can you change history?
• Commander: Wellesley
• 6 Command Cards
• Optional 5 Tactician Cards
• Commander: King Joseph Bonaparte
• 5 Command Cards
• Optional 2 Tactician Cards
• Move First
• The River Portina Brook will stop movement, but does not cause any battle restrictions.
Initial manoeuvring from the two armies saw General Ruffin bring some infantry forward on the hills in the French centre and eye up the British forces on the opposite hills. Both armies advanced on their right flanks, General Sherbrooke joining the Rifles. (We were both using up Scout cards.)
Then Ruffin charged: two Light infantry and one Line fixed bayonets and attacked the corner of the British lines on the hills. The Line infantry made it onto the hills, but took heavy casualties before pushing back the British Line in front of them. This left only one of the Lights with a target, but they were met with a devastating volley. On their right flank a French Line infantry occupied Valdefuertes. (Bayonet Charge met with First Strike and battle backs.)
Further accurate volleys from the British eliminated two of the French attackers, the third retreating to the hills it started from, taking Ruffin with it. (2:0 to the Allies.)
The French artillery now started peppering the British lines, severely damaging the Rifles and one Line unit, both of which pulled back out of range. The French troops in Valdefuertes caught some British cavalry in the open, their muskets doing a lot of damage. However, fire from British Line infantry advancing along hills pushed them out of the village.
Then the British cavalry charged: the Guards taking the lead against the French Light cavalry with one Light in support. They wiped out one unit, but General Merlin was able to retire with what was left of the second. The second British Light cavalry threatened the Line infantry, which formed square. (Yep, that was Cavalry Charge - 3:0.)
The British Guard cavalry took heavy casualties from advancing French Line infantry and fell back into the village while the undaunted Merlin attacked the British Light cavalry.
Screened by their cavalry, the British Line advanced off the hills and their fire finished off the French Line in square while the cavalry swung round to attack Merlin's damaged force, forcing it to retreat again. (4:0 to the Allies.)
Despite the French Line units continuing to advance on them, the two British Light cavalry pursued Merlin and finished off his troops, though not the man himself. The flanking French Line went into square as the cavalry arrived only to be eliminated by gunfire from the British Line, now occupying Valdefuertes. (6:0)
Action suddenly switched to the French left flank as three Line infantry, supported by one Light, rushed the British right flank (aka the Grenadier Guards) in a last ditch attack under General Sebastiani. (Evert had La Grande Manoeuvre.)
However, withering fire from the British Light infantry crippled the left-hand attacking Line infantry who were then finished off by the Grenadier Guards, General Sebastiani falling with his men. (And that's 7:0.)
The French attacks were piecemeal and the British were able to retire damaged units without the French pursuing. (There were five one-block units on the British side at the end, and another three reduced to two blocks.) And a rare victory for British cavalry against their French counterparts - largely because the Guard Heavies were attacking Light cavalry while the French Heavies were otherwise engaged. (However, the 7:0 score line over-states the scale of the victory.)
We started with a bit of manoeuvring. I pushed the French artillery forward, following it with Line infantry and clearing a route for the Heavy cavalry to join the Lights on my right wing. Evert moved the British cavalry forward and attached leaders to units. The first hit was by the French artillery in the centre on an advanced British Line on the opposite hills.
Then Evert moved the Rifles, Lights and Grenadier Guards forward on his right, damaging a French Line infantry unit. I responded by hitting the Rifles with artillery and Light infantry fire to good effect. He followed with a "Bayonet Charge" that pushed my Lights back into the woods, battered my Artillery and finished off that under-strength Line unit - first medal to the Brits. However, I damaged the Grenadier Guards in return. This attack also included a Line infantry on the British centre-left charging a French Line in the brook and being all but demolished in the battle back.
I gave 'em the cold 'steal', finishing off that British Line and destroying the Grenadier Guards. 2:1 to the French.
Furthering manoeuvring by the British cavalry brought the fourth unit into range for a Cavalry charge on the centre-right French artillery and infantry. One brave Line unit was eliminated, another went into square, but the cavalry took a thumping from the battle backs. 2:2
The cavalry skirmish that followed saw one French light cavalry eliminated with minimal further casualties for the British. 2:3
Time to attack! "Force March" in the centre pushed a lot of French infantry forward and the ensuing musketry chased off a French Light cavalry and pushed a British Line off the hills. This was followed by a "Bayonet Charge" up the hill with some spectacularly successful dice rolls, eliminating two British units in exchange for a single retreat from the battle backs. 4:3
Another "Cavalry Charge" on the British left saw some spectacularly bad dice rolls as three cavalry units failed to damage their one target Light Cavalry and the British Guard cavalry was reduced to a single block in return. The French came back with a "Cavalry Charge" of their own that finally brought the their Heavies into action and finished off two British Light cavalry. 6:3
The French continued to attack on the central hills, but it was time for the British to get lucky, taking out a full strength French Line and its leader, Ruffin, into the bargain. 6:5
However, it just needed an attack by a full-strength French Line on a one-block British Line to finish things off. 7:5
It was a good fight and I look forward to the return match.
Initial manoeuvring saw the French army bring up its cannons and supporting infantry in the centre, while advancing the light cavalry on the right. The British replied by moving up its central artillery, plus the Rifles and Grenadiers on their right.
The Rifles splashed into the brook, whence they could engage the French infantry while remaining out of range of their muskets. Fixing bayonets, the French charged and annihiliated the Rifles. However, the advanced infantry units now came under sustained fire from the British infantry, including the Grenadier Guards, that caused casualties and forced them back.
The French deployed to attack on their right, the heavy cavalry joining the lights, only for the British right wing to fix their bayonets and charge the battered infantry on the French left. Led by the Grenadier Guards, the British infantry destroyed the French left flank, killing General Sebastiani into the bargain.
The French cavalry finally attacked on the right, killing one British light cavalry unit and damaging the Guards Heavy cavalry. But it was too little, too late as the Grenadier Guards and supporting units started rolling up the French line.
2:7 to Tom as the Brits, making the aggregate score 8:14. Oh dear.
Tom's initial moves as the French were to bring his artillery forward, supported by light infantry. I got my generals assigned to units and moved the British cavalry (on my left) forward to the end of the British line.
I brought the rifles into the line to shoot at the French artillery on my right flank, but the artillery shot back! Damage on both sides. Then the French infantry started advancing on their left-centre. The light infantry leading this took a hammering, but pulled back to allow line infantry forward (some "Take Command" cards used here).
The battered rifles retired, but I brought in the Guards Grenadiers and light infantry to remove the French artllery for first blood. And then, thanks to a "Rally", a line unit to take the score to 2:0.
A Cavalry Charge on my left saw the French light cavalry demolish a British light cavalry. Then some French infantry charged again left-centre to finish off the Guards Grenadiers and take the score to 2:2. A "Bayonet charge in response removed the attacking units (a lucky die roll eliminated a full-strength line infantry) to restore my lead.
The French cavaly pressed their attack on my left and, Tom's lucky die-roll, took out the British Guards Heavy cavalry. The French heavy cavalry appeared centre left, forcing British line into square for the light infantry and artillery to shoot at. They got two units to put the French into the lead 4:5.
A "Grande Manoeuvre" let me re-establish the British line on the hills with the two light cavalry guarding my left flank. Well, they were the left flank. A couple of "Coordinated Advance" cards had the French infantry again hitting the British left-centre, taking out a light infantry, while the French light cavalry pushed the British light cavalry back. 4:6 with the French needing one more banner for the win.
A "Forward" saw me finish off the French Heavy cavalry and take out a light infantry, but fail to make an impression on the opposing light cavalry. However, it's tied again on 6:6.
The last action was the continuing cavalry fight on my left where the French finished off another British light cavalry to win the battle 7:6. Both sides still looked in pretty good order, though. Apart from the non-existent British left flank...