Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Campaign in Spain 1809: History of the Campaign

Camp Cromwell’s 1809 Campaign in Spain

This campaign was fought in April through June 2017.  The battles were fought using Hail Napoleon – our house variant of Hail Caesar converting them for the black powder era & have been chronicled in this blog over the past 10 weeks.  Until now I have been unable to provide a history of the campaign itself without compromising the hidden movement & fog of war aspects of the campaign.  I expect that much of this report will be interesting news to the participants.

The campaign rules are our own house rules.  The campaign map was a map of Spain from which we modified by superimposing hexes.   Battle terrain was determined using on-line Michelin & Google maps & satellite images with obviously modern features removed.

The campaign system includes hidden movement, incomplete intelligence, supply & fog of war.  It relies on a good umpire with time on his hands.  Features of the system include:
·      It is not turn based.  The players give the umpire their orders and the umpire plots movements using pinned counters on a print of the map until he decides a Decision Point has been reached.   This can be a force reaching their objective, contact with the enemy, a spy or scout report, or a message from a comrade.  The players concerned are then given an Intel Report & given the opportunity to issue new orders.  This system allows potentially tedious periods of manoeuvre to pass quickly & the campaign to progress rapidly from one interesting potential battle situation to the next.  Throughout the campaign we got from one battle situation to the next within a few days, so always had a battle ready to fight on our regular Tuesday night meeting.

·        Supply is a vital issue, but it is done without tedious record keeping.  If the players keep to the guidelines in the rules they won’t have problems, but if circumstances force them to go outside those guidelines, there are penalties.  The allies have to move in such a way that they do not out-run supply trains to the towns behind them.  The French have supply problems if they stay in the same place too long, or march on a route that has already been stripped.  Supply problems can cause the force to slow down to seek out supplies, or to accumulate Fatigue Points.

·        Fatigue Points are accumulated by forced marching, fighting & supply problems.  Excess fatigue affects a unit’s combat & marching performance.  These can usually be recovered by resting.

·        Whenever new orders are issued the umpire determines 3 D10 indices for the command concerned - for Movement, Intel & Supply (1 is good & 0 is bad).  These apply to the troops involved until they get new orders.  The rules state likely move distances, but a bad Movement Index can cause delays.  The Intel Index guides the umpire as to how much detail to give the players about the enemy.  The supply Index can cause or exacerbate supply problems.  This randomness makes the campaign more a realistic exercise in judgement than a precise calculation of distances.  It also has a serendipitous advantage for the umpire in protecting him from player angst, as if he makes a mistake the players seldom notice in the fog of war (& can be written off as just more of it).

·        The D10 Indices are obtained transparently by the umpire, not by ephemeral dice rolls, but by reference to Weather Bureau records published automatically on line.   Each command has a nominated weather station & their Indices are the decimal of the Actual, Apparent & Dew Point temperature recordings 1+ hour after the email containing new orders is sent.  (The 3 in a temperature reading of, for example, 10.3° at a pre-set time & place is near enough a random number).

·        Each side received different initial briefings detailing their own order of battle, starting locations & objectives.  The only info they received of the enemy starting order of battle & locations was that they were based on the historical situation.  The date of arrival of some reinforcements, like Ney & Mortier’s corps was not provided to either side.  The French also had restrictions put on them (unknown to the allies) in the form of directives from Napoleon (who was in Austria).

There were a dozen players involved.  Each of the 6 senior commanders (Wellesley, Cuesta, Venegas, Joseph Bonaparte, Victor & Soult) had two players assigned to them.  This provided redundancy in case of occasional unavailability.  Some of the players were remote and participated only by email.   The battles were fought at Camp Cromwell by whichever players of each side were available on the night - with strategic direction from absent commanders.  The umpire fought in some battles to help with the plastic pushing if any side was short handed – but always under the strategic direction of the force’s commander.

Initial set up:

Wellesley is poised to invade Spain from Portugal.  Most of his army is at Portalegre on the border.  He also has reinforcements on the road from Lisbon & on the boat from England. Cuesta has an army in western Andulusia.  Venegas has an army in eastern Andulasia.  Both Spanish armies have some reinforcements coming later.  The Allies’ objective is to re-take Madrid.

Victor’s corps is deployed in western Estremadura.  Joseph Bonaparte has a garrison & a reserve cavalry division in Madrid along with Sebastiani’s corps.  Soult’s corps is in Old Castile.  Ney’s corps  & Mortier’s corps are marching to Old Castile to join Soult.  Victor & Joseph have orders from Napoleon to defend Madrid.  Soult has orders to stay in Old Castile to maintain order & guard against an attack from Portugal in the north.  He is not permitted to leave Old Castile until Ney or Mortier arrive to take over those duties.  One of those corps must remain in Old Castile at all times.

Battle of Caceres, day 8:

In the west, Wellesley advanced east directly towards Madrid while Victor at first consolidated his dispersed forces at Merida.  When Victor’s scouts reported that Wellesley was heading past Caceres directly towards Madrid while there was no news of any Spanish activity to the south he marched north & struck at Wellesley’s line of communication - providing the first battle of the campaign at Caceres on day 8. 

Wellesley got intel of Victor’s approach & turned back sending his cavalry ahead.  Some of Wellesley’s reinforcements happened to be in the right place at the right time to join Wellesley’s cavalry to delay the French until Wellesley arrived.  Wellesley arrived before the French could destroy his rear guard.  Faced with superior numbers, Victor broke off the action before his army was broken.

Battle of Diamiel, day 12:
In the east, Venagas advanced north towards Madrid.  When Joseph got news of this, he sent Sebastiani south to deal to deal with him.  On day 12 they met just north of Diamiel.  The Spanish put up a pretty good fight but were defeated.

Battle of Miajadras, day 15:

After Caceres, Victor retreated to Montanchez.  Both sides then sat about for a few days making their minds up about what to do next.  Victor finally got a report of Spanish activity south of Miajadras & set off south to clear the threat to his line of communication.  Coincidentally, Wellesley decided to move south to attack Victor on the same day as Victor moved off.  The French usually march faster than the British so Victor kept ahead of the British pursuit.

Cuesta got to Miajadras before Victor.  Victor arrived there on day 15 & immediately attacked.  Cueasta was defeated and retreated south.  Wellesley gave up following Victor and turned back to Caceres, then continued east on the road to Madrid.

Victor only stayed in Miajadras long enough to rest & regroup his corps after the battle, then marched east hoping to outmarch Wellesley in a race to Madrid.

Battle of Peuto Lapice, days 26-27:  

Venegas had rallied his army after its defeat, received reinforcements & had moved back past Diamiel to Alcazar de san Juan.  Hearing of Victor’s approach, he used Google Maps to locate a good defensive position a day’s march east of Alcazar where he could try to block Victor’s route to Madrid.  Victor arrived there in the afternoon of day 26 & immediately attacked.  The Spanish managed to hold on until nightfall & despite heavy losses stood their ground so the battle continued into day 27.   Again they fought pretty well, but by noon they broke off the fight & pulled off to the south letting Victor past, content that they had delayed his march to reinforce Joseph by at least 2 days.  Victor continued to Alcazar to meet Sebastiani’s light cavalry which had been sent back down the road to help him out, but had arrived too late to do so.

Battle of Toledo, days 35-36:

On day 27 the French were told that Ney had arrived at Valladolid & Soult became free to move out of Old Castile leaving Ney to take over security of the province.  Soult sent an infantry division to Madrid to support Joseph’s defence of the capital & marched the rest of his corps south towards Wellesley’s line of communication.

Victor paused at Alcazar de san Juan for his men to rest & regroup from the effects of the battle & his long march through hostile territory before resuming his march north to join Joseph.

Wellesley marched east from Caceres up the valley of the Tagus to Talvera.  From there Wellesley had a choice of two routes to Madrid.  He sent a cavalry brigade on the north road & marched his main force on the south road.  Joseph guessed right & had deployed Sebastiani’s corps just east of Toledo to defend the road to Madrid.  Wellesley attacked on the afternoon of day 35.  Soult’s infantry division brought Joseph’s numbers up to match Wellesley & with a good position to defend they held off the British attack until nightfall.  The next morning the British renewed the attack, but they had made little further progress before Victor’s army appeared on their right.  Venegas’ stubborn fight at Peuto Lapice had delayed Victor & bought Wellesley time, but not enough.  Wellesley called off the attack & retreated in good order but with significant casualties.

Joseph had also sent a cavalry brigade on the north road.  There was a small fight between the cavalry brigades won by the British who moved south to join the main army, but delayed enough to be of no help other than as a rear guard.

Battle of Navalmoral, day 38:

After his defeat at Miajadras, Cuesta retreated over the Gudiania.  After resting & regrouping his army & receiving some reinforcements he again advanced to Miajadras knowing that Victor had long gone.  He continued east to Casas de Don Pedro, then north through the mountains towards the Tagus where he could follow Wellesley’s advance. 

The British Light Division was still at sea when the campaign started, but was now about a day’s march behind Cuesta on the road to Navalmoral, heading east to join Wellesley.

Cuesta reached Navalmoral on day 37, to receive news that Soult’s corps was advancing towards the town from the NW on the Plasencia road.   In the morning of day 38 Soult attacked.  The Spanish had a good numerical advantage & for a while looked like they might win, but it was not to be.  The army broke just before the British Light Division could come onto the field.   The fresh British division covered the retreat, but Soult occupied the town thus cutting Wellesley’s line of communication.

Battle of Talavera, day 39:

When Wellesley retreating from the battle near Toledo, Joseph’s force stayed on the field to regroup while Victor’s force, which had not had to fight, pursued the British.  After getting to Talavera Wellesley found out that his line of communication had been cut at Navalmoral by Soult.  He had some supply at Talavera & attempted to halt there on day 39 to regroup & rest after the losses & fatigue of the battle & retreat in anticipation of having to fight his way past Soult at Navalmoral.   But Victor was close behind him & attacked immediately.  

So we fought a battle on the original Talavera battlefield.  In our Talvera the French had only Victor’s corps while Welellsley has no Spanish allies.  The numbers were in Wellesley’s favour, but his army was in poor shape not yet having had time to regroup & recover from fatigue.  Victor’s corps on the other hand was in good shape, not having had to fight at Toledo.  The British put up stiff fight lasting into the afternoon, but their losses at Toledo & fatigue made the army brittle and the well lead French won a decisive victory.
The end game:

Wellesley had nowhere to retreat to other than back to Navalmoral which was held by Soult.  Victor pursued the next morning giving Wellesley no chance to regroup his force.  On day 41 Wellesley reached Navalmoral to find Soult deployed across his path with his army rested & regrouped after his battle on day 38.   After his defeat at Navalmoral, Cuesta retreated over the Tagus with the British Light Division holding the bridge while he rallied & regrouped his beaten army.  By the time he’d done this Wellesley had reached Navalmoral where his decimated and exhausted army was trapped between two superior French corps with no alternative but to surrender.

In the east, Joseph fell back to Madrid with Sebastiani’s corps, Soult’s 1st division & the Madrid garrison, blocking Venegas’s renewed advance with a superior force.  Venegas turned back to Andulusia & the campaign was over.

There were 7 battles:                    The British fought 3 battles, winning 1 battle & losing 2.
                                                      The Spanish fought 4 battles, losing all of them.
                                                      The French fought 7 battles, losing 1 & winning 6.

3 of the battles took two nights to fight so we got 10 nights of good wargaming on the table.  The campaign took 10 weeks of real time as we always got to the next battle within the week between wargames nights.

The French certainly had the edge in the battles, but they also did better in the campaigning.  Victor’s strike at Wellesley’s line of communication lead to his defeat in battle, but it lead to a significant delay before Wellesley resumed his march on Madrid – which eventually proved critical at Toledo.  Soult’s sending of a division to reinforce Joseph was also a decisive move as it tipped the balance of forces the French way at Toledo.   Although always defeated in battle, the Spanish didn’t disgrace themselves in the campaign.  Cuesta did his best to protect Wellesley’s line of communication, but met Soult on one of his good days.  Venegas’ stubborn fight at Peurto Lapice delayed Victor long enough to at least give Wellesley a chance at Toledo.

According to the Victory Conditions, the campaign results were:
French:       Decisive victory.  (Good team effort from Victor, Joseph & Soult).
British:       Crushing defeat.  (It's the Chateau d'If for Wellesley - no dukedom & Hobart’s mountain is definitely Kunanyi).
Spanish:      Honourable draw.  (They failed to win, but have fought as well as can be expected & can return to Andulasia with both their armies still fighting forces).


Gonsalvo said...

Thanks for the excellent overview and the many Battle Reports. I am considering doing a Peninsular "Campaign in a Day" with Snappy Nappy, and this series has certainly not done anything to dissuade me from the project! What's up next for you guys?

Jim Gandy said...

We'll be taking a break in other periods for a bit while we decide on the next campaign scenario. Spain has lot of possibilities. N's first Italian campaign is another option under consideration.