Sunday, February 5, 2017

Battle of Albuera

The field of Battle 

I've always had a bit of a thing about the battle of Albuera.  I remember reading about Lt. Latham of the Buffs hiding the colours in his jacket after the near destruction of Colborne's brigade.  He fell having been repeatedly sabred by French cavalry. He lost an arm and damn near lost his life, but he saved the colours and his regiments honour. The account in the late Richard Holmes book "Soldiers" is well worth reading and it gives me chills years later. 

But then again, two of my favourite battles are Waterloo and Albuera, which lead to a friend of mine observing, "What is wrong with you Kinch, that you like battles where every one bloody dies." 

That poor man is dead now and I still don't have an answer for him. 

Regardless, for them as don't know the battle. 

"The Fortress of Badajoz dominated the southern invasion route from Portugal into Spain. The British had invested the fortress, but had few engineers and no siege train to speak of. The French were not idle. Marshal Soult set out toward Badajoz with a relieving force. Beresford, the temporary army commander, marched a force larger than Soult’s to the small town of Albuera to meet the French. Beresford placed his army on the ridge behind Albuera, expecting to receive a frontal assault to split his army. Soult, however, formed most of his army behind the high ground opposite the Spanish on the right flank. 

On the morning of May 16th, General Godinot’s brigade attacked Albuera as a diversion, while Soult’s main force moved unobserved across the Albuera River and delivered a flank attack upon Blake’s Spanish contingent. The first Spanish unit attacked was Zayas’s division, a veteran unit under a good commander. Though pounded by superior French forces, the Spaniards held until Stewart’s British division arrived. Stewart threw Colborne’s British brigade at the French flank and checked French progress, but none of Colborne’ regiments were in square. French cavalry charged and virtually destroyed three of the four regiments. The rest of Stewart’s division went into line behind the embattled Spaniards. The French made a fatal pause to allow a fresh division to come forward. Zayas’s survivors drew off under no pressure. 

Now a solid line of British muskets awaited the French columns that had been successful against Zayas. As the fresh French and British formations met, both did fearful execution to each other at close range, British line fire prevailed, causing the battered columns to retreat. French reserves (Werle’s division) advanced toward Stewart’s remnants, but help was coming. Sensing disaster, General Cole advanced his British division without orders. His action won the battle, as British line fire triumphed over the French columns, but again at a high cost in British casualties. Soult could see Harvey’s fresh Portuguese division advancing, and with no more fresh troops available, ordered a French retreat. 

Although considered a British victory, when Wellington heard he had lost almost 6,000 irreplaceable British soldiers, he was reported to have said, “Another such battle will ruin us."

The French drive into the town of Albuera on the Allied left

French dragoons outflank the Spanish line on the Allied right

The rest of the French cavalry push on the right

A counter attack launched by the 4th Irish Dragoon Guards

General Du Gourmand contemplates his cavalry...

...and opens a bottle of Dr. Du Gourmands Healthful Nerve Tonic. 

"These Chasseurs offend me!"

Uncle Westprog considers his options

The 4th Irish Dragoon Guards ably supported by some Spanish hussars do the business

As much prized French horse flesh is sent to the Knackers Yard... 

...General Du Gourmand clutches his chest and decides that he better play something good to get himself of trouble. 

But not so fast. 

There is a rule in the Spanish expansion for Commands & Colours Napoleonics called the "Spanish Guerrilla" rule.  The Spanish (or allied player) can play a "Spanish Guerrilla Token" to cancel the effects of a card played by the French player.  This effectively gives the Spanish player two turns in a row, which can be very powerful. Normally the player takes a small card token, but they were packed away and I didn't have them to hand. Uncle Westprog however felt that the "Spanish Geurilla Stick" was a far more effective means of remembering this vital game mechanic.  This was accomplished through the medium of whacking the card out of Du Gourmand's hand. 

Yet another benefit of a classical education. 

That's quite enough of that. 

French grenadiers holding the town. 

Meanwhile over on the left, the French grenadiers had dragged the Allies in to a meatgrinder of a battle around the town. They were eventually driven out and broken, but not before exacting a punishing toll on the British. 

As the French right was being driven out the down, the cavalry again came into their own. 

General Du Gourmand ordered the Vistula Legion to attack supported by the French infantry. 

Taking the Spanish hussars in the flank. 

With predictable results. 

"I'm not sure if Cavalry Charge is the card I want to play..."

Oh but it is and the Irish are sent packing by the Poles. 

Which leaves Uncle Westprog with a problem...

...he is trailing in victory points and with the French rampaging around his right flank, he is likely to lose the game in the next few turns. If he remains on the defensive, he will simply be delaying the inevitable, but if he attacks, he might catch Du Gourmand off guard. 

With that in mind, he launches an attack in the centre driving his infantry across the river to hit the battered French 

Even with the Vistula Legion driven off, the French infantry are looking threatening. 

Hold it right there young man...

The British make it across the river, wipe out a French battery and drive 
General Godinot back in confusion

The Vistula Legion drive into the centre, Uncle Westprog tries to form square, but cannot due to a scenario special rule called "Stewarts Folly". 

So he plays a first strike card (allowing him to shoot first) and manages to empty the Legions saddles so effectively that they are destroyed as a fighting force. 

General Godinot is captured. 

The Legione Irlandaise and the 8ieme Ligne splash across the river

And the brave Spaniards are no more

The Royal Horse Artillery rides to the rescue

But it's too late, The French infantry close in and put the remaining Portuguese to the sword. 

A good game, hard fought

Considering Uncle Westprog was down 7-4 for quite a while and managed to turn things around in the final few turns, this was a close game.  I was impressed with how he dealt with things considering Du Gourmand is an exceptionally experienced opponent possessed of a Napoleonic cocktail of decision and aggression.  His cavalry assault on the French should have succeeded and he was unlucky that it did not do more damage. 

Du Gourmand played well, but was let down by the dice on a couple of occasions. On the whole, a rattling good game.