This battle was an unexpected pleasure as my pal General Creanor was able to drop over, and to mark the occasion, I cracked open a bottle of Lustau East India Solera Sherry which I'd been saving since my birthday. This was a lovely light sweet wine and one I'll definately be returning to. Wonderful stuff. Recommended.
As always you can find the scenario here, courtesy of the chaps over at CCNapoleoncs.net. The scenario itself is an interesting one and I've played it several times. The British player has some very good troops - including Grenadiers and Grenadier Guards, but this is balanced by some less than stellar Portuguese troops. The French player has to square this particular circle - does he decide that the best defence is a good offence and try to end the game by concentrating on the Portuguese or does he husband his resources, but resign himself to allowing the British player dictate the pace of the engagement?
I opened the ball by moving my high quality troops, the 93rd and the Grenadiers of the 4th Foot to either side of the ridge. It was possibile that a sudden lunge from the French would pin my allies against me and I'd be caught on the back foot.
General Creanor, a fervent admirer of the Duke, decides to emulate him by adopting a reverse slope defence. This was a canny move as it allow him to shield his troops from fire, negating my superior musketry while preparing to knive me as soon as I came in range. Note the chasseurs to the right of the ridge, ready to enfilade me if I advance.
Meanwhile on my left, I pondered by hand and decided to do a spot of skirmishing. I had sufficent cards in hand to push forward here and hopefully make it to the trees before General Creanor cavalry (just out of shot) could make themselves felt. I was confident that my light infantry could hold their own in the woods, but they would be easy meat in the open.
With that in mind, I advanced the RHA in expectation.
And followed them up with the Halberdiers, a crack light infantry regiment. British light infantry are highly rated in Command & Colours Napoleonics and deservedly so.
This also marked the first fire in the game. We marked the fire with pillow stuffing, I believe it's called pollycell, and continued to do so for the rest of the game. I was curious to see how it would look.
The fire of the Halberdiers proves deadly and the 8ieme Ligne take to their heels, but before General Loison is shot from the saddle and is killed.
Grape from the French guns deployed on the hill proves ineffective, knocking down one RHA gunner, but failing to blunt the attack. I think General Creanor made a mistake here, it would have been more profitably to shoot up the Halberdiers rather than indulging a continental taste for counter-battery fire.
The counter-attack drives the gunners from the hill, though beyond injured pride they are unharmed and are in a good position to support an attack by those damned skulking Chasseurs.
Which they promptly do, hurling themselves at the 19th Light Dragoons. This was a combined arms assault by the French cavalry and horse artillery. The idea being that the horse artillery would unlimber, fire grape at close range into the Light Dragoons who would then be immediately charged by the Chasseurs.
But it was not to be, fortunately I had a card in hand that allowed the Light Dragoons to pre-empt the French charge, which they did. I imagine this represents some budding Mathew Hervey damning his mens eyes and going for the French bald headed rather than waiting to recieve the charge at the halt.
The pre-emptive charge saved the Light Dragoons bacon in the short term, but the Chasseurs were not cut up, only driven off and could easily charge home a second time.
Meanwhile on the right, the British line were advancing on the French chasseurs skulking in the woods. They were being peppered with shot, but maintained their dressing - the main concern was whether I would be able to get a volley off before the French countercharged me. There were a few cards that General Creanor could have in hand that would let him fall upon me before I could get a shot off, but he might be willing to brave a turn of fire in order to draw my line closer.
Meanwhile, on the left, the 19th Light Dragoons have lost their heads and galloped on. After cutting up the French horse artillery, which barely managed to make their escape a second time, they carried up into the newly reformed Chasseurs. Their infantry support lagging behind, there was every possibility that they had bitten off more than they could chew.
Having driven the Chasseurs back as far as they could, it looked like the Light Dragoon might just get away with it...
...put perhaps not. A snappy counter attack from General Creanor rallied the Chasseurs and send the 19th tumbling back in disorder into the Chasseurs infantry supports, who promptly opened fire.
Emptying saddles, but not finishing the unit. The 19th evaded the volley of the first regiment (left), only to run into the second (right). They fled, bent low over their horses, bullets whistling over head and managed to escape.
Bloodied, but alive - the 19th Light Dragoons, having fled nearly half the table - will not be rejoining the battle unless something drastic happens. General Creanor later calculated to the odds of surviving that tempest of fire as over a thousand to one. Well done chaps, but battles are not won by retreats.
To be continued.
*Paddy Griffith once asked me what the hell was wrong with me that I liked battles where everyone dies. I still don't have an answer to that one.