116 Vitoria (21 June 1813)
Vitoria - 21 June 1813
1813 was the year the balance of power swung in the Allies’ favor in Spain. Wellington’s army received substantial reinforcements from England. Napoleon drew large numbers of veteran troops from Spain to rebuild after the disastrous 1812 campaign. Wellington’s Allied army advanced through the mountains into the North East of Spain, outflanking the French armies of Joseph Bonaparte and forcing them toward the French border. Joseph, encumbered by a massive baggage train, had fallen back to Vitoria to await General Clausel and reinforcements. Joseph unwisely deployed to the west of Vitoria. The defensive terrain was good, but he had only a single route of retreat through the pass and that massive baggage train was in the way. Army morale was suspect.
Wellington determined to strike at four vulnerable areas in Joseph’s line and destroy the French army before Clausel’s arrival took away his numerical superiority. The first attack was conducted by Major General Hill’s corps and a Spanish Division against the French left flank. Kempt’s Light Division was to cross the Zadorra and extend the British line. Two divisions, including Picton’s, were to engage the French right flank, and two more divisions under Graham were to attack across the Zadorra north of Vitoria to block the retreat route.
Hill’s attack slowly pressed the French back, and Kempt’s division crossed the unguarded intact bridges on the Zadorra to aid the attack. Picton’s divisions were late joining the fight, but luck was with the British. Hill’s attack attracted virtually all of the French reserves. When Picton’s divisions engaged, they made good progress, and the entire French army was pushed back into an ever-shrinking area. Over seventy guns on each side engaged in the largest artillery duel seen in Spain as the Allied infantry continued to press forward. By 4 P.M. the French were beaten, and Joseph’s order to retreat turned into a full-fledged rout as the troops heard the sound of battle near their escape route through the pass.
The entire French army was saved from destruction by two events. First, terrain and fanatical French resistance prevented Graham from blocking the retreat path. Second, the Allied army dissolved into a horde of looters as they came upon the riches of the baggage train, effectively ending pursuit. As it was, Joseph’s army suffered 8,000 casualties and lost all of its artillery and stores in addition to the baggage train.
The stage is set. The battle lines are drawn and you are in command. Can you change history?
• Commander: Wellington
• 5 Command Cards
• Optional 6 Tactician Cards
• *Move First
• Commander: Joseph Bonaparte
• 4 Command Cards
• Optional 2 Tactician Cards
• *Move First
• *Move First. At the start of the battle, each player simultaneously selects and reveals one Command card from their respective hands. The card each player selects will be the card that each player must use on his first turn. The side that will move first is the side with the card that orders the lowest printed number of units. Counter-Attack, Elan, First Strike, Leadership and Rally Tactic Cards cannot be played. Remaining Tactic Cards are assumed to order the maximum number of allowable units. If a tie, the British player moves first.
• The Spanish Guerrilla Action rule is not in effect.
• The River Zadorra is not fordable.
Turns 1: French Fire and Hold from the central heights eliminating a British infantry regiment.
Turn 2: British commence a heavy Cavalry Charge causing an artillery battery to retreat behind the central ridgeline. But the second French artillery unit opens up at short range annihilating an entire British heavy cavalry unit. The French then Counter-Attack with their own cavalry charge! The attack eliminates the last British heavy cavalry regiment. A black day for the British equestrian corps! French lead 3 to 0.
Turn 3: French assault the center with more cannon and musketry volleys. British regulars are falling in droves. French secure two more victory banners and the Allied center has evaporated. French 5, Allies 0.
Turn 4: Spanish and British forces execute a Bayonet Charge against the French left. The Allies obtain their first banner and push the French back. French attempt to Rally… but utterly fail.
Turn 5: Generals William Stewart and Pablo Morillo continue to press the French left. French 6, Allies 4.
Turn 9: French artillery decimate British regulars around the bridge leading to Tres Puentes. Allied advance on the French left stalls. French 7, Allies 4.
Turns 10 -16: Both sides start to maneuver and bring up reserves. Scattered long range musketry and artillery fire in the center and skirmishing on the French left.
Turn 17: The battle for the bridge to Tres Puentes heats up. General Jean François Leval makes a move toward the bridge, but General James Kempt’s Regulars, Light troops, and Rifles shatter Leval’s leading regiment. Leval is compelled to retreat. All tied at 8 victory banners.
Turn 18: On the French right, General Leval orders his artillery forward to cover his assault on Tres Puentes. General James Kempt sees the movement and orders his Light Division units to open fire on the artillery crews. The effect is devastating! The Allies earn their last banner and win the day 9 to 8. A very close, come from behind victory for the Allies.
I wonder if the British had a Grand Maneuver card first turn and used it to bring his 4 left flank infantry units that are trapped behind the river; if that would make much of a difference. Those units get slaughtered if you bring them across the bridge one at a time. Some would still get wiped out, but the French have a target rich environment either way.
Generally speaking the French forces seem setup rather close to the British lines.
Wellington could get 6 cards too.
Bit of history off the Penisular War website