Thursday, September 13, 2012

Talavera - 28th July 1809

"Oh Lord," thought Blackie, "Kinch is going to write another cat post."

I have, I must admit, been neglecting Joy & Forgetfulness of late. So much so that I have resorted to that last resource of the scoundrel, videos of the cat. But pardon gentles all, I shall shall call forth into this cockpit, the bloody field of Talavera!

The battle of Talavera took place in the summer of 1809; Wellesley had returned to Portugal and kicked Soult out. His plan was to advance into Spain, join with the Spanish force under General Gregorio Garcia de la Cuesta and kick Frenchy in the pants. This admirable goal was complicated by the fact that Wellesley was relying on considerable Spanish help for his logistics, which did not materialise and secondly and perhaps more importantly, the aforementioned   General Gregorio Garcia de la Cuesta who had beaten out a crowded field to take the award for "Maddest, most useless bastard ever to command an army in Spain."

The Allied army marched up the Tagus valley with the idea of threatening Madrid which was in French hands. They arrived at Talavera, a city about seventy five miles southwest of Madrid and which was also occupied by the French. The Allied army had an opportunity to fall upon part of the French army under Victor, but this opportunity was missed when General Gregorio Garcia de la Cuesta (now say it three times fast) informed Wellesley that the Spanish army could not possibly fight on a Sunday. This delay allowed the French time to withdraw and return in force. 

The Allied army then took up a defensive position to await the French assault. Wellesley certainly wasn't going to attack equal or greater numbers of Frenchmen with such an unreliable ally. The British army was drawn up on some high ground Cerro Del Medellin with the Spaniards to the British right, south of their position. There had been some preliminary skirmishes as the Allies had fallen back to this position and Victor's troops had managed to briefly take the heights during a night attack, but were driven back by British reinforcements. The following morning, reinforced by Ruffin's and Sebastini's troops, the French were ready to attack again. 

This particular scenario covers the British section of the battle only and is complemented by a Spanish scenario that came in the Spanish expansion. I hope to play them as an Overlord scenario before too long. 

But enough of this potted history nonsense, there are far better places to read about it.  On to battle!

Capability Savage surveying the battlefield

We played this game a few short days after Mrs Kinch left hospital. Donogh had had to head off already, but Capability Savage was still with us and Tootsie Royale (Mrs Savage) was giving Mrs Kinch a welcome respite from my company. However, Mrs Kinch was fading as her drugs were beginning to take effect and Tootsie had given notice that she would be leaving shortly. Consequently, Savage was playing under a time constraint, which probably did him no favours.

Admittedly, the brake fluid he was drinking didn't help either.

The 31ieme Legere move forward in an uncharacteristically cautious first move from Savage

Supported by the second battalion and the Legione Irlandaise in the centre

The 8ieme also move forward

Meanwhile on the right, French line infantry start to move out of the tree line. There are Frenchmen advancing everywhere.

The French guns move forward to support the infantry advance. General Sebastini out front waving his hat!

The Fourth Foot and the 60th Rifles fire their first volley across the Portina brook, causing a few casualties. A lucky shot from the French battery decapitates the Major leading the 60th, leaving them in disarray. In game terms, they managed to score the maximum possible casualties, taking two stands away from a three stand unit. It didn't seem likely to me that they were quite at canister range, so I rationalised it that a senior officer had been hit with the obvious serious effect.

The entrenched British guns return fire, aiming for that damned ass Sebastiani, but hitting the poor fellows behind him. Poor form I know. It is not the business of generals to fire cannon at one another.

The French light infantry advance, a shifting wall of blue and green

A sharp encounter sends the Royal Americans tumbling to the rear, though inexplicably leaving a redcoated casualty behind.

The Fourth Foot are flayed by fire, losing half their numbers, but the second volley does precious little. The Highlanders move up in support.

The British skirmishers return fire, but the officers keep the men in hand, hoarding that precious first volley until Johnny Crapaud gets good and close.

The French move forward and platoon fire starts to crash down the line, deafening and blinding the men in the ranks, but sending the 31ieme Legere packing.

The Foot Artillery on the ridge add their fire to the torrent of musketry and the Irishmen head for the hills. 

The score is 2 - 1 to the British at this point.

Reasoning that his cavalry superiority isn't being made best use of, Savage threw to regiments of light cavalry across the stream, supported by a battalion of the 22ieme Ligne, which took the village. Between sips of Chateau D'Domestos, he explained that he intended to force my horse to attack him, clear them off, then force the chaps on the ridge into square and then roll them up with his infantry. It's always hard to tell with Savage if this is his usual confidence, the last act of a desperate man or simply the bleach talking.

So far so good and things were looking decidly dicey for the British. The Chasseurs charged the British guns and put the gunners to the sword. On paper this was a lunatic play and only Savage would be mad enough to attempt it. At best it has a one in twenty seven shot of success, but only Savage can plan for Savage's luck.

Score - two all.

Meanwhile, I was damned if I was going to be distracted from the flank where I was winning. I sent the Highlanders and the Halberdiers across the river with the order, "I want that demmed Frenchy's hat - go get it boys!".
General Sebastiani managed to make away, but the French infantry melted away before the crashing volleys of the Highlanders and the incessant sniping of the Halberdiers. The French guns decided that discretion was the better part of valour as well.
Halberdiers wading through the bloody brook. Those wounded near the river would be counted lucky by the end of the day - at least they could get water and were better off then those poor fellows in the dry, long grass, burned to death when it was lit by burning wadding.

The Chasseurs charge the 57th, who failed to form square (actually I choose not to) and were badly punished as a result. I sent the 18th Light Dragoons to relieve them, but the "Drogheda Cossacks" were having an off day and only managed to get themselves badly cut up in a counter charge.

The Chasseurs were eventually put to flight by the Connaught Rangers, who wheeled in line and gave them a volley from which there was no coming back.

Score three - two the redcoats.

Things were looking grim on the right as well, General Sebastiani rallies the wavering second battalion of the 8ieme Ligne and led them in a full throated charge straight into the Highlanders. Appearing suddenly through the smoke, the Frenchmen put the Scots to flight.

Score three all.

Another volley from the Rangers sending the Hussars of Conflans to the rear, no doubt to check their curls, and drops a French general on the way.

Score four - three to the redcoats.

Meanwhile, the 8ieme Ligne attempts to capitalise on the confusion caused by the sudden rout of the Scots, by pouring on the pressure on the Halberdiers, but despite causing a casualty - they fail to crack the light infantrymen.

Having already accomplished one impossible thing before breakfast, Savage decides that a second in neccessary. In a foolhardy move, but not impossible. He has a better than even chance of disposing of the Cossacks, which would then allow him to sweep into the 57th infantry, who he stands a 50% chance of wiping out, this would leave Daddy Hill in a tough position and likely to be taken. The odds are against Savage, but if he succeeds he could take three flags in a turn, which would leave me in very hot water.

Unfortunately, the Hussars of Conflans fluff their charge and are promptly counter charged by the 18th Light Dragoons, eager to avenge their earlier poor showing.

Score Five - Three to the redcoats.

Meanwhile on the right, the Halberdiers splash through the brook to give the French the bayonet. The gunners in the redoubt support them with fire and Sebastiani is taken in the front and side by a combined arms attack.

And the dice are very favourable, the Frenchmen flee the field.

Score Six - Three to the redcoats.

And General Sebastiani is taken as the Halberdiers under General Sherbrooke extract vengeance for the fallen Scottish friends. In a torrent of blasphemy and Toilet Duck fumes, Savage concedes.

Score Seven - Three to the redcoats and it's game.

As it turns out I had been sitting on a very good hand of cards, but had been unable to use any of them - mainly because Savage was continually hustling me with his constant attacks.

The battlefield at the end of the engagement. I think the gunsmoke gives a good indication of where the majority of the fighting took place. It's interesting to note that Savage didn't manage to get infantry heavy centre into the fight and I think suffered for it. His cavalry attacks would have been more crushing if they had been properly supported. Also, those units of his that did the fighting did all of the fighting. There were plenty of fellows who just looked on.

And it's time for home...

A good game and one that took thirty five minutes to play. There were plenty of moments where I think it could have gone either way, but on the whole, I think Savage did himself a disservice and attacked before he was really ready. If he'd taken his time and moved his infantry up in the centre, I would have been watching a much stickier situation.

Also, with this scenario in the bag and added to the Peninsular battles page, I now have a complete collection of Peninsular battle reports from the basic game. All that remain from the basic box are the two Hundred Days scenarios.

Then of course, there are the Spanish scenarios. But those I think will have to wait for another day.


  1. Hi CK,

    As ever a gripping narrative, replete with much buckling of swashes, gasting of flabbers and erudite Kinchisms. I trust you checked the supplies of Chateau D'Omestos before that ne'er do well departed!

    Dare I say he attacked piecemeal and was made a meal of, in pieces.

    All the best,


    1. The Chateau D'Omestos was well and truly ravaged I can assure you!

  2. So my lessons learned here are:
    1) Ply your opponent with cheap booze
    2) Distract your opponent with insistent women
    3) Give 'em the bay'net.

    DId I miss anything?

  3. I always have fun reading your blog. Today was no exception.

  4. I enjoy your blog and the photos - thank you for taking the time to share it.

    Based in large part on what I have seen in your blog, I am in the process of converting CCN to miniatures. My game mat is from HOTZ, and is 4" hexes. A few questions, if I might:

    1. I'm planning on mounting my lads on 3" x 1.5" bases for infantry, 3" x 2" for cavalry, and 2" x 2" for artillery. I haven't decided how to account for "block loss"; what do you do?
    One thought is a small laminated label with boxes that I can "check" when a casualty is taken.

    2. The rivers - did you make them, or are they commercial? Did you have to cut the pieces down to fit?

    3. Going into square - how do you represent that?

    Again, thanks for your efforts!