Saturday, November 12, 2016

Battle of Ocaña in 6mm

Refight of the Battle of Ocaña, 19th November 1809, using Commands & Colors Napoleonic Rules. Figures from Baccus 6mm range, hex terrain from Kallistra, houses from TBM and trees from Timecast.

I had just read “The Battle Of Ocaña – the Army of Spain’s Greatest Victory” by Pierre Juhel so I was inspired to refight the battle.


The Spanish campaign of fall 1809 was unfolding successfully. The subsidiary Army of the Left had beaten the French at Tamames. Now the 55,000 man Army of La Mancha commanded by Juan de Aréizaga was a mere 35 miles from Madrid. The French were reacting quickly and soon assembled over 30,000 troops, with more approaching to cut off the Spaniards. Aréizaga realized the threat and began to fall back, but not quickly enough. The French army, under the tactical command of Marshal Soult, brought the Spanish army to bay near the village of Ocaña where it deployed in terrain unfavorable for the defense. The Spanish center and right were formed on an open plain – excellent terrain for the French cavalry. On the 19th Soult ordered Sebastiani to attack the Spanish right flank infantry with his German and Polish divisions. When the infantry was fully engaged, Milhaud’s French cavalry attacked Freire’s cavalry, severely battered in the previous day’s cavalry battle, and quickly routed the Spanish horse. Meanwhile the Spanish were funneling reinforcements to the right and began to press back Sebastiani’s troops. The Spanish advantage was only temporary. Soon the victorious French cavalry, including the feared diablos Polacos (the Polish Vistula Legion lancers), fell upon the rear of the Spanish right flank infantry. In minutes three Spanish divisions ceased to exist.

Marshal Soult advanced infantry on the newly exposed Spanish center divisions, pinning them in place. Soon the French cavalry descended on these troops too, scattering them to the wind. Dessolles’ division then stormed Ocaña, and all remaining Spanish formations fled except for Zayas’ division. It attempted to cover the Spanish retreat, and retained its formation for several miles, but it too collapsed later in the day to a French cavalry pursuit that could not be stopped. Over 5,000 Spaniards were casualties and another 14,000 were captured, along with virtually all of the army’s artillery.

The Setup:

The armies deployed on what was basically an open plain in front of the village of Ocaña,

View from the French left

View from the French right

The Game Layout

The village of Ocaña, heavily defended by Spanish infantry. Houses are TBM and the statue is a Baccus SYW general.

The Battle:

The battle commenced with an artillery bombardment from both side, in the hope of softening up their opponent. This was more successful for the Spanish than the French; a cannon ball decapitated le général Jean François Leval early in the battle.

Spanish artillery

French artillery

Realizing that they were getting the worst of the bombardment, the French commander ordered an attack by his left flank, led by the feared Polish Vistula Lancers.

The Polish Vistula Lancers, supported by général Édouard Jean-Baptiste Milhaud and his dragoons, charge and totally defeat the Spanish Húsares de Extremadura.

Following in the wake of the fleeing hussars, the Lancers encounter Spanish Heavy Cavalry which they also totally defeat.

Seeing that the Lancers were so successful, Milhaud charged his dragoons at the nearest Spanish infantry, who just in time managed to form square and repulse the dragoons. Fortunately for Milhaud, his supporting infantry arrived just in time with a bayonet charge at the Spanish square which stood no chance and was defeated totally.

Returning from defeating the Spanish Cavalry, the Vistula Lancers attack the Spanish light infantry in the rear, the remnants of which retreated hastily into the nearby woods to save themselves from the lances. 

The Spanish tried to distract the French by a counter-attack in the centre, but the French infantry fought this off. At the same time the French left continued to roll up the Spanish troops. Milhaud's dragoons, supported by fresh French infantry, charged the Spanish infantry which failed to form square in time and was annihilated. Simultaneously the Vistula Lancers charged the Spanish artillery which had been damaging the French centre. 

Having defeated the Spanish artillery, the Vistula Lancers continued their charge, swerving to miss the steady Spanish infantry, they attacked the Granaderos a Caballo de Fernando VII. The Spanish cavalry had not been having a good day, and this was to be no different, they were defeated and the remnants fled the field. 

Having seen their right wing and centre being rolled up by the French cavalry, the remains of the Spanish army lost heart, and withdrew from the battlefield. The French had been lucky, two Cavalry Charges and a Bayonet Charge by the supporting infantry had decimated the Spanish.