Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Combat at Aire - Part One

General Gorman surveys the field

The Combat at Aire is nobody's child - lacking the big name recognition of Salamanca or Vittoria. It was a rear guard action fought in Southern France after the battle of Orthez. The Allied army had pushed the French out of Spain and was carrying on north. Exhausted by the battle at Orthez, Wellington commissioned Rowland "Daddy" Hill with the task of taking two divisions, some cavalry and some horse artillery and "keepin' the skeer on'" in the words of Bedford Forest.  He was to keep the French running.

Capability Savage nurses an alcohol hand sanitizer and lager cocktail while pondering how he will see off Les Rosbifs.

General Clausel, Hill's counterpart, was tasked by his superior Marshall Soult with the unenviable job of preventing this from happening and thus allow the large quantity of stores that were present at Aire to be gotten away. Thus what occurred was a mirror image of the classical Peninsular battle. The French held the high ground and had to beat off the attacking British.

I have an idea...

Combat at Aire is one of the most balanced scenarios in the Command & Colours: Napoleonics canon with over fifty plays recorded on, the honours have been relatively even all along. I was interested to see how this would go as both players, General Du Gourmand and Capability Savage, are notoriously aggressive.

General Du Gourmand has another idea...

The problem facing the Allied player is that he has to advance across a river, albeit a fordable one, into the teeth of a strong French defence. This is complicated by the fact that his vanguard, which is already across the river, is made up of his weakest troops, the Portuguese.

The French player on the other hand, is in the position of having to defend against a numerically superior opponent with some very dodgy characters holding his line of retreat. He can strike the Portuguese, but will have to come down from his hill to do it, exposing himself to an attack by the rest of the Allied army.


General Du Gourmand playing the good guys for a change, tackled the problem in typically bold fashion and not minding manoeuvres, just went straight at 'em. 

Gunfire ripples down the line as the Portuguese infantry drive the redcoated Swiss and 22iem Ligne from the field

The bold approach, which we should have expected, paid dividends when CS's troops were driven from the ridge. This gamble might or might not pay off - depending on whether CS had something decent in his hand which would allow him to put in a strong counter.

The 22ieme turn and flee from the "Fighting Cocks of the army" - the 7th Portuguese Foot.

Which he didn't and had to settle for a relatively anemic attack from unit in the centre. The Portuguese counterattacked and wiped one French battalion out entirely. Things were beginning to look rather lonely for the redcoated Swiss.

The Royal Horse Artillery move forward onto the bridge and add their fire to the Frenchmen's troubles, while in the centre the Portuguese drive the Swiss from the field.  Capability Savage usual luck and aggression were not in evidence as the dice turned against him.

Capability Savage cuts the deck as the Portuguese advance through the smoke, having almost completely crushed the French centre

General Du Gourmand played "Elan", a card which allows a random number of units to attack with a bonus, and used that to finish off the French infantry in the centre. The attack was too fast and too hard, leaving Savage too little time to put together a proper defence.

French chasseurs and infantry from the right move and take the victorious Portuguese in the flank, forcing them into square

The first glimmers of hope in what had begun to be a rather grim game for the French.

The Portuguese troops exhausted from the combat, fire blind volleys into the smoke while the Chasseurs manoeuvre adroitly, forcing the 7th Line into square.

This improved matters greatly for Savage as it took cards away from Du Gourmand's hand and limited his ability to support his success in the centre. If the Portuguese could be isolated, they would be easier pickings than the redcoats across the river.

Things are beginning to come unstuck for General Du Gourmand's plan as the French cavalry start to chip away at his squares

There was a crucial loss of momentum here as Du Gourmand struggled with his infantry in square, while Savage tackled the difficult task of supporting the cavalry success with infantry.
With his one remaining unpinned battalion of Portuguese he charges the Neapolitan militia at the rear of the French line.

As the Allied army advanced into France, the French had to rely on younger and younger conscripts and territorial units. I don't have anything suitable, but these units represented by Militia units in CCN terms, are probably the weakest units in the game.

I represent them with the historically inaccurate (for this battle at least), but very distinctive 7th Neapolitan Foot - a formation whose performance and disciplinary record was so appalling that its commander complained that it contained for prostitutes than soldiers.  Their white uniform with pink facings certainly stands out on a battlefield.

Who flee at the first smell of powder!

Predictably the Neapolitans scatter at the prick of the bayonet. However the second battalion are very low hanging fruit for the vengeful Portuguese.
Meanwhile over on the French left, Capability Savage recovering sufficient offensive spirit to charge the 17th Dragoons

Unfortunately, I forgot to properly photograph this French counterattack. What occurred was the French heavy cavalry, the 17th Dragoons, also with pink facings, charged across the river, wiping out the Royal Horse Artillery gun crew on the way and forcing another battalion of Portuguese into square.

Meanwhile battle still rages in the centre - French light infantry punish the Portuguese in the centre

With the successful Cavalry Charge on his left, Savage inched a light battalion into position to shoot up the 7th Foot in the centre. These caused more casualties, but failed to wipe out the gallant Portuguese.

The rampaging Chasseurs force another battalion of the 7th Infantry into square, prompting sighs of relief from the Neapolitans

But help is at hand, the 7th Portuguese Dragoons thunder through the smoke to dispute matter with the French chasseurs.

Things were looking bleak for Savage, three units down with the Allied Horse Artillery to show for it. However, he had forced three units into square, halving his opponent card pool and leaving them vulnerable to gunfire or musketry.

All that remained was for him to do it.


  1. That square = less cards is a real kicker! Looking forward to the next instalment


  2. Capability SavageAugust 8, 2012 at 6:36 PM

    I ain't gonna lie to you folks, me and that 'orrible yoke Du Gourmand have plenty of history, and most of it is of the bloody and boozy variety. He's thumbed his nose at my boys one time too many, but he hadn't reckoned on ol' Savage coming over that bridge and rearranging his garden gnomes with a fist full of clippity-clops. Like I always say, "Give me a bridge, some mentalists, and the enemy guns, and the jobs half done", and you can take that one to the bank.

  3. Cnrad,
    An excellent account of your miniature battle! By 1814 had not the Portuguese proven their battlefield resolve?
    The Celtic Curmudgeon

  4. General Du GourmandAugust 10, 2012 at 5:02 PM

    Was an exciting battle kicked off very fast and didn't really slow down

    really enjoyed this one