Tuesday, May 30, 2017

1809 Campaign in Spain: Battle of Navalmoral

After Wellesley's defeat at Toledo he has begun a retreat back to Portugal.  But the campaign is far from over.  While the chances of the Allies taking Madrid look gone, they can still save a par result by Wellesley getting his army back to Portugal.  Soult has moved south from Old Castile in an attempt to cut his line of retreat at the town of Navalmoral, but after Cuesta's defeat at Miajadras a few weeks ago he rallied his forces, received reinforcements & moved north.  Cuesta was too late to join Wellesley in the push for Madrid, but he fortuitously arrived at Navalmoral a day before Soult. With reinforcements from Andulusia Cuesta's army has been restored almost back to the strength it had when it was defeated by Victor at Miajadras, except that it lost most of its artillery at the battle & it has not been replaced.  However, Soult's corps is significantly smaller than Victor's was at Miajadras because he detached 2 brigades of infantry & sent them to join Joseph.  This may well have saved Madrid, but it has left Soult's corps undermanned.

Soult camped the night before only 1 hex from Navalmoral so the battle commenced early on Day 38 of the campaign.  Soult's light cavalry brigade (4 hussars) is forced marching to the battle having been off doing a scouting mission & is expected about 9pm real time.  There is also a British light division (6 inf battalions & a battery) on the road from Lisbon as reinforcements for Wellesley which is expected to arrive at the battlefield about 10pm real time.  So total forces in the area are 33 French & 54 Allied - if ever the Spanish are going to win one this should be it.
The Spanish are on the right.   The wooded hill is very lightly wooded and not a major defensive advantage.  They have more troops (infantry & cavalry)  out of sight in the trees & thus not on the table on the hill.  They have 6 infantry brigades, 3 of 6 units & 3 of 4 units), 2 heavy cavalry brigades, 2 light cavalry brigades, but only 1 battery.
The French have dragoons on their right, a grand battery & 1 infantry brigade in the centre & 3 infantry brigades on their left.  Thier infantry brigades have 5 units.
The French advanced cautiously.  On the near flank they deployed their grand battery & waited for it to do its work.  But on the far flank the Spanish advanced to meet the French infantry - doing so remarkably quickly considering their poor command rating.    
Initially the Spanish infantry attack on their right went well pushing some of the French back & even breaking some French units.
The French dragoons attacked twice their number Spanish heavy cavalry of at 2:1 odds.  The fight was indecisive & both sides fell back with heavy casualties.

In the desperate infantry fight on the far flank the Spanish broke one French brigade, but then lost 2 of their own.  The Spanish light horse eventually got out of the trees to support the remaining infantry.
The Spanish light cavalry arrived too late to save their infantry on the right & without artillery or infantry support the light horse could not hurt the French squares & fell back.
When the French hussars arrived they were quickly brought forward to support the dragoons, the French infantry in the centre advanced & the grand battery redeployed to fire at the Spanish centre.
On the far flank the Spanish are falling back, but Soult's infantry on that flank is too badly mauled to follow up.
Already weakened by the fire of the battery & the attack of the dragoons, the Spanish left collapsed quickly under the French attack.  The British light division has formed up just off table in the foreground & is able to come onto the table next turn, but it is too late.  The Spanish have lost 5 of 10 brigades, their army is broken & has to retreat.

For a while it looked like the Spanish might finally be going to win one when their attack on their right broke 1 French brigade & got 2 more on the brink of breaking.  But they did not break, & the Spanish suddenly fell apart losing 2 brigades on that flank & after he patiently softened up the Spanish left with dragoons & artillery, Steve's second attack on the Spanish left quickly took out 3 more brigades to break the Spanish before the British light division arrived.  So even a 60% advantage wasn't enough to overcome a command rating of 7 compared with 8, 1 less dice in most combats & the Break If Spanish rule.  But it wasn't only the Spanish rules that caused their defeat, Mitch & Steve's strategy was very good - in particular, they exploited their artillery superiority to the max, & Steve's combination of infantry, cavalry & artillery on the French right was very well done.


1 comment:

Gonsalvo said...

More good stuff!c In most rules, it takes numbers, good play, and some luck to win with the Spanish! Definite bragging rights if you do so!