Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Campaign in Spain 1809: Battle of Caceres

Last week we started a campaign based on the Anglo-Spanish attempt to retake Madrid in 1809.
The players are:
Umpire: Jim
Victor: Nick & SteveJ
Joseph: Dale
Soult: Dave & Mitch
Wellesley: PeterC & Mike
Cuesta: Mark & Chris
Vanagas: PeterW & SteveD
Some of the players are in Canberra.  All are involved in the email strategy, but the battles are all to be fought at Camp Cromwell by whoever from each side shows up on the night.

The first battle was at Caceres, a town about 90km from the Portuguese border about 1/4 of the way along Wellesley's direct road to Madrid.  Wellesley had moved quickly past the town.  With no news of the French he may have assumed they had gone south to deal with the Spanish, but to protect his  line of Communications he left a light cavalry brigade at Caceres & had their 3rd divison on the road from Lisbon about a week's march behind the main body.

But Victor suddenly appeared marching towards Caceres from the SW.  Wellesley reversed his Corps two days march beyond Caceres.  He sent his heavy cavalry division ahead to join the division on the road - which it did before the French reached the battlefield.

This is where we started the battle.  The British heavy cavalry brigade is in the foreground, the 3rd division (of 2 inf brigades) is on the road to the right 4 turns off table.  The British light cavalry brigade is on the left in front of Caceres.  Wellesley's Corps of 2 infantry divisions (4 inf brigades & 6 batteries) is 6 turns off table. The head of Victor's column is behind the cat.  He has a light cavalry brigade, 5 infantry brigades & 7 batteries.

The British throw their cavalry forward to disrupt the French deployment.
The British light brigade was broken & the heavy brigade thrown back, but they did their job of delaying the French deployment & the British 3rd division has had time to come on & deploy to meet the French attack.  
The head of Wellesley's column has arrived, but it is in single file of units because it has debouched froma pass earlier in the day (on good ground forcess march in double columns each side of the road with the artillery & baggage on the road). 
The French attack is hampered by poor command dice while Wellesley marches quickly forward. 
Regrettably there's a bit of a gap in the photo record here.  The French columns pushed the British line back, but the first line ran out of steam & the second line hadn't come up fast enough to provide immediate support before Wellesley started to close in on the French right.  Victor ordered a retreat after 1infnatry division broke.  Another was broken while acting as a rearguard, but Victor made good his escape with just 2 of 6 divisions broken.  The Brits had 1 light cavalry division broken.

The Brits had considerably more troops in the area that the french, but the French had the opportunity to defeat them in detail.  Victor had to break the 3rd division before Wellesley could bring superior numbers to bear.  Had he done so he would have been across Wellesley's Line of Communication forcing Wellesley into a do or die situation.  But the British cavalry, poor French Command dice & a bit of French indecision due to poor intel caused enough delay to save Welessley.

The campaign rules provide for limited intelligence.  Before this battle Welelsley was blessed with good intel dice & had a good idea of Victor's strength & position.  Victor on the other hand had poor intel dice plus high guerrilla activity to deal with.  He had no idea of the British strength or location until he they got onto the battlefield, but marched boldly forward against Welelsley's LOC regardless.  But as he always did in real life, Wellesley managed to wiggle out of the trap.

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