Saturday, January 21, 2023

Roliça - French First Position (17 August 1808)

This scenario is a refight of the first stage of the Battle of Roliça (17 August 1808) during the Peninsular War. It was played using the Commands & Colors Napolionic rules but on hex terrain from Kallistra, buildings from Total Battle Miniatures, trees mostly from Timecast Miniatures and using 6mm figures from Baccus instead of blocks. This is the second battle using our Peninsular War campaign rules.


The History

After landing unopposed at Mondego Bay, Sir Arthur Wellesley led a Portuguese/British army of some 15,000 men south towards Lisbon. Opposing him was General Henri Delaborde, with a force consisting only of some 5000 infantry, 500 cavalry and 5 field pieces. Delaborde resolved to fight a delaying action against Wellesley’s advance while awaiting reinforcements from Generals Junot and Loison.

Delaborde chose his first defensive position in the hills just northwest of the village of Roliça. Wellesley advanced in three columns against the French, ordering the Portuguese troops under Colonel Trant on the right and Fergusson’s column on the left to turn the enemy’s flanks, while the artillery and infantry in his centre were to engage the enemy in the front and hold them in position.

The view from the Anglo-Portuguese lines.

The British attack was underway by seven o’clock in the morning on the 17th. Although the French were hotly engaged all morning, Delaborde’s outnumbered force still held onto the hill position. However, by early afternoon, the wary Delaborde could see that his position was being outflanked and quickly moved his forces back to a second defensive position to the south.


The Refight

The battle commenced when both British artillery opened fire on the French light infantry on the hill.

The French light infantry took heavy losses but held their ground.

The French moved forward an infantry column and some light cavalry to bolster their right flank.

The British held their position and opened fire. The combined firepower of the British light infantry in the woods and the two Royal Artillery batteries devastated the French column on the hill.

The French and British then exchanged fire. The British firepower was more effective, destroying the advancing column and causing the light infantry to retreat into cover behind the hill.

Protected by the fire of their light infantry in the woods, a column of British infantry on the left flank started to cross the river.

Seeing that his right flank was not successful, the French general now tried to change the focus of the engagement. He ordered his right flank cavalry to retire behind the village of Roliça. On his left flank he ordered his light infantry and light cavalry to advance in order to threaten the Portuguese on the British right.

Ignoring the advance towards the Portuguese, the British general ordered the troops on his left flank to manoeuvre with great speed. The three units still on the far side of the river advanced forward and started to cross. The column of infantry that was already crossing the river, rushed forward and into the village of Roliça right under to nose of the French light cavalry.

In an attempt to regain the initiative, the French general ordered both his cavalry units to charge.

On his right flank, the hussars charged into the British regiment of foot that was crossing the river, but it formed square and held off the hussars with no serious losses to either side.

On his left flank, the French general ordered the chasseurs à cheval to charge the Portuguese line infantry stationed on the hill. The infantry formed square but took casualties in the process.

The British advanced their cavalry to threaten the French hussars. From the safety of the village, the British infantry opened fire on the rear of the hussars causing them to retreat but without causing any serious casualties.

The French general ordered his hussars to retire further. However on the French left, the chasseurs à cheval  attacked the Portuguese square causing more casualties. French light infantry advanced slowly to support the chasseurs à cheval.

Seeing the exposed French artillery on the hill, the British cavalry charged with the Royal Horse Artillery battery in support.

The charging British cavalry slaughtered the artillery, then impetuously charged into the French hussars causing then to loose half their strength. 

But the impetuous British cavalry had charged too far, they were surrounded behind the French lines, cut off and destroyed.

Rather rashly, and instead of waiting for his centre to advance, the British general ordered his left flank to leave the security of Roliça village and to push ahead towards the recently victorious and full strength French line.

The French line infantry, formed attack columns and attacked.

The British line infantry retreated through the village and out the other side. The light infantry held the French but took losses.

The British light infantry advanced alone the ridge and attacked the French infantry. Both sides took heavy losses and the British retreated back along the ridge.

On the French left, the French light infantry had arrived to support their chasseurs à cheval. The light infantry opened fire on the Portuguese square while the chasseurs à cheval attacked the supporting Portuguese cavalry. Both Portuguese units were destroyed.

The RHA opened up at close range with canister, firing a hail of small balls into the French infantry.

The RHA destroyed the French infantry, while at the same time a regiment of British foot occupied the hill that outflanked and overlooked the French army's line of retreat.

Seeing that they had been outflanked and were in risk of being cut-off from their supply lines, the French general ordered his army to retire from the field of battle.


The Outcome 

Anglo-Portuguese Victory:   Anglo-Portuguese 5 - French 4

For the next scenario, the Allies gain 2 Glory Counters and the French gain 1 Glory Counter.

Campaign Result 

  Victories     Banners  
  French       1     11
  Allies       1     10


Saturday, December 31, 2022

Bailén (19 July 1808) - Peninsular War

This scenario is a refight of the Battle of Bailén (19 July 1808) during the Peninsular War. It was played using the Commands & Colors Napolionic rules but on hex terrain from Kallistra and using 6mm figures from Baccus instead of blocks. This is the first battle in our Peninsular War campaign.


The History

Large areas of Spain had rebelled against the French invasion. Dupont’s French Corps advanced to occupy Cordoba and Sevilla. Most of Dupont’s troops were newly formed conscript units. Soon Dupont found himself facing General Francisco de Castaños’ force of 30,000 men to his front, and harassing guerilla forces that cut his line of communications until a reinforcing French division re-opened it. Fearing that his communications would be cut again, Dupont retreated, but did so too slowly, encumbered by a long baggage train. Half of Castaños’ army under Reding executed a decisive flank march that placed them on high ground at Bailén, squarely across Dupont’s line of retreat. Dupont remained unaware of their presence until too late.

The view from the Spanish lines.

On July 19th Dupont’s advance guard (Chabert’s brigade) made contact with Reding’s defensive line. Without reconnaisance, Chabert sent his 3,000 infantry and cuirassiers forward against three times their numbers. The attack was driven back. Most of Dupont’s corps marched behind the baggage train, making reinforcement difficult. Arriving units were thrown into a second French attack piecemeal, and were again repulsed. Dupont arrived on the field and assumed command. Led by the Marines of the Guard, the third understrength French attack also failed. Adding insult to injury, most of Dupont’s Swiss infantry, originally in Spanish service, deserted back to their former employers. With no additional reserves and the rest of Castaños’ Spanish army moving in behind the French, Dupont surrendered.


The Refight

The battle commenced with the French withdrawing their cuirassiers from the centre to make room for them to deploy two batteries of foot artillery.

On the Spanish left flank, the French advanced their cavalry and the Spanish moved forward their light infantry to the edge of the woods, supported by a column of line infantry on the hills behind.

The fighting continued on the Spanish left flank, with the Spanish light infantry in the woods opening fire on both the French infantry in the woods and the French cavalry, causing serious casualties to both.

The French general decided that staying stationary was not an option, so he ordered his cavalry to charge the Spanish guns on the hill. He also moved his cuirassiers from the centre to support the attack.

With only slight losses to themselves, the stubborn Spanish artillerymen halted the charging French cavalry causing serious casualties.

The Spanish artillery on the hill, and light infantry in the woods kept up a steady fire on the French destroying a cavalry regiment and the infantry lurking in the woods opposite.

The French General then ordered a second attack on the Spanish guns by the surviving cavalry from the first attack and the fresh cuirassiers. But this time, General Chabert brought up a column of infantry in support. 

The cuirassiers overran the Spanish artillery and then continued up the hill, forcing the infantry under the command of General Coupigney to form square.

The Spanish brought up infantry reinforcements which caused casualties on the cuirassiers.

The French general ordered his infantry columns to fix bayonets and charge in support of the cuirassiers on the hill.

One of the French columns destroyed the Spanish square on the hill and capturing General Coupigney in the process, while the second attacked the Spanish light infantry in the woods causing them to flee to the rear.

A ferocious battle ensued on the hill, with both sides taking heavy losses.

Hoping to tip the balance, the Spanish advanced a regiment of hussars, which wiped out the remaining cuirassiers and forced the lone French infantry into square.

But the French square held, causing the Spanish hussars to retire back off the hill.

The battle now moved to the Spanish right flank. The French opened with a bombardment that slaughtered the Spanish infantry column located on the hill next to the artillery. 

The Spanish brought up their cavalry reserve to support their infantry.

The French started pushing forward this Swiss infantry regiments.

Back on the Spanish left flank, the Spanish light infantry advanced and destroyed the understrength French square, retaking the hill with the support of the hussars.

The French charged their Chasseurs à Cheval up the hill into the Spanish hussars. Both sides took losses in an undecisive engagement.

At the same time, General Chabert led his infantry out of the woods up onto the hill whereupon they opened fire on the Spanish dragoons causing them to retire with casualties.

The French line infantry opened fire slaughtering the Spanish light infantry. 

The French Chasseurs à Cheval caused the Spanish hussars to flee before they themselves being charged and destroyed by the Spanish dragoons.

On the Spanish right, a lone French light cavalry support by artillery attacked the Spanish infantry on the hill. The Spanish infantry formed square, but took casualties from the artillery fire.

The Spanish counterattacked, wiping out the French cavalry regiment.

On the left, the French infantry took the hill, destroying the understrength defending Spanish infantry and forcing back the Spanish dragoons with losses.

The French advance continued, causing the Spanish dragoons to flee the field. The second French column pushed the Spanish infantry out of the woods and caused serious losses.

The Spanish infantry attempted to retire towards their own centre.

The French infantry column charged into the understrength Spanish infantry and totally destroyed them.

Disheartened by all their losses, the Spanish army turned and fled the field.


The Outcome 

French Victory: French 7 - Spanish 5

For the next scenario, the French gain 2 Glory Counters and the Allies gain 1 Glory Counter.


Monday, July 4, 2022

Battle of Idistaviso / Weser River (16 AD)

This is the second of two scenarios to refight the campaign of Germanicus against the Germanic tribes. This scenario was AC27, an unofficial scenario written by Alessandro Crespi and available on commansandcolors.net.

The scenario was played using the Commands & Colors Ancients rules but on hex terrain from Kallistra and using paper figures from Peter Dennis instead of blocks. 

The Battle of Idistaviso is also known as the Battle of the Weser River and sometimes as the first Battle of Minden. It was fought in 16 AD between the Roman legions commanded by Germanicus (the adopted son and heir if the Emperor Tiberius) and an alliance of Germanic tribes commanded by Arminius. Additionally the Chauci, a Germanic tribe, fought for Romans as auxiliaries.

Ancient sources identify the location as Idistaviso, but the precise location is unknown, save that it was on the right side of the Weser River, somewhere up between the cities of Minden and Hameln of present-day Germany. The battle marked the end of a three-year campaign by Germanicus to restore the Roman frontier at the Elbe that had been lost in 9 AD. The Germanic tribes generally avoided open large-scale combat, but at this battle Germanicus was finally able to force them into a major engagement. 

Both sides suffered severe losses, but the Romans were victorious. Arminius and his uncle Inguiomer were wounded in the battle, but both evaded capture. The retreating Germanic army was cut down in every quarter. Many, attempting to swim across the Weser, died from a storm of projectiles or by the force of the current. Many others climbed to the tops of trees, and while they were hiding in the branches, the Romans called upon archers to shoot them down.

Germanicus had to withdraw behind the Rhine for the winter once again. Tiberius saw no point in continuing the costly military campaigns in northern Germania and ordered Germanicus to end his campaign and return to Rome. Germanicus was granted a triumph in 17 AD. After this, Rome never again made a serious effort to conquer Germania beyond the River Rhine.

The Battle started with the light troops of both sides skirmishing in the centre. The Romans advanced in the hope of taking the hilly terrain but the barbarians got there first. There were few losses, but the Romans were outnumbered.

In the centre, the Romans took losses from the enemies' javelins and their auxilia retired. But they were rallied and advanced into the fray again.

A great contest of javelin skirmishing ensued. The sky turned dark with the javelins, initiated by the barbarians but counterattacked by the Romans. The Romans came off the best from the exchange.

After more skirmishing from both sides, the Roman centre took the initiative and advanced towards the barbarians on the hills.

The Germanic leader, seeing the perilous situation, took direct command of the four units around him and charged straight into the Romans.

One unit of Roman heavy infantry was pushed back with casualties, while the second unit under the command of Germanicus himself was wiped out, Germanicus being carried of the field seriously wounded and unable to continue in command. The light infantry evaded the charging barbarians.

In the centre, the Romans were suffering from the javelins thrown by the barbarians.

So they sent forward a unit of legionaries and one of Chauci warrior auxiliaries to attack the barbarians.

But the fight was indecisive, both sides taking fairly heavy losses.

Arminius ordered forward a fresh unit of his warriors, they demolished the Chauci auxiliaries, and charged right through them into the legionaries behind.

The legionaries retreated without loss. However the Roman immediately brought forward more reinforcements to build a battle line against the barbarians.

As the Roman centre looked impenetrable, Arminius ordered his three units of cavalry to charge the enemy's left flank.

One unit of Germanic cavalry, fled from the fight, while the other two wiped out one unit of Roman cavalry, severely damaged another as well as almost destroying a unit of Chauci warrior auxiliaries.

The Romans tried to shore up their left flank. The Chauci warrior auxiliaries attacked the unit on the hill, wiping them out and causing their commander to flee into the forest to his rear. The Roman cavalry then attacked the remaining enemy cavalry unit, causing 50% losses but were then themselves pushed back.

The barbarians then continued the cavalry charge again. They brought up both the cavalry and the leader that had previously fled.

The cavalry slaughtered the Chauci warrior auxiliaries, they charged straight through and over the hill where they fell on the remaining understrength Roman medium cavalry and its leader.  

The Roman medium cavalry and its leader were destroyed. Seeing their flank destroyed, the Roman army lost heart and retired from the field of battle. 

Arminius celebrated his victory, by drinking Roman Falernum wine, part of the spoils discovered in a tent previously belonging to a Roman general.

Arminius - by MW