Sunday, February 12, 2023

Roliça - French Second Position (17 August 1808)

This scenario is a refight of the second 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, trees mostly from Timecast Miniatures and using 6mm figures from Baccus instead of blocks. This is the third battle using our Peninsular War campaign rules.

The History

Général Henri François Delaborde expertly withdrew his force near Roliça to a second defensive position before the British flanking columns could encircle him. The new position was extremely strong and could only be reached frontally by four rugged gullies. General Sir Arthur Wellesley quickly repositioned his forces to repeat his double envelopment for his afternoon attack.

The view from the Anglo-Portuguese lines.

However, Wellesley's plan was pre-empted when the Lieutenant-Colonel Lake of the 29th Worcestershire Regiment prematurely forced his way up one of the central gullies. Wellesley chose to support Lake’s effort and the entire British army surged forward. The French battalions advanced to meet the British before they could emerge from the gullies, but were repulsed. Delaborde once again drew off his troops in good order. Ultimately Roliça was an indecisive action. Although Delaborde did slow the British advance, Wellesley forced him to retreat before he was reinforced.

The Refight

Looking at the French defensive line, the Allied commander decided that the French right was his opponent's weakest point.

So the British cavalry and RHA were ordered to move from the centre to the Allied left flank and then advance together with Ferguson's infantry.

While this was happening, the French waited patiently on their ridge line, opening up with an ineffective artillery fire.

The French artillery cause slight losses to one of Ferguson's infantry units as four unit fixed bayonets and charged towards the ridgeline. Ferguson hoped that he could cause the French infantry to retreat from the hill as it was only supported by artillery and no other unit.

The British infantry's bayonet charge up the hill caused only slight casualties to the defending French infantry who stood firm, but caused huge losses to the attackers.

The attack was stalled on the slope, and when the French counterattacked they mopped up the few remaining troops without loss to themselves.

The battle then moved to the centre, where the British infantry opened a ranged fire believing they would have the advantage. The caused minor casualties to the defending French light infantry but the return fire caused severe British losses and the British infantry took cover in the woods.

Seeing is heavy losses in the centre, the British general ordered forward an artillery unit and an infantry unit from his reserve. At the same time his infantry withdrew so as to be out of musket range of the French infantry.

Deciding that the time was ripe to strike before the British reinforcements to come into action, the French commander ordered his troops to advance down off the ridge.

The British had hoped to hold of the French with their superior musketry. While they did cause one French infantry unit to retreat, the British took heavy casualties, one unit being entirely wiped out.

The Allied commander was confident that the firepower of his British light infantry would destroy the advancing French infantry. But they failed to do so, and the French infantry column hit the light infantry and destroyed them.

In the hope of distracting the French advance, the British commander ordered a cavalry charge into the French right flank. The cavalry charged up the hill supported by close range fire from the RHA guns.

The French line infantry, decided not to form square because of the presence of the guns. The charging cavalry overran the infantry.

The British cavalry, impetuous as always, continued their charge into the French artillery. 

Even without the support of the RHA guns, the cavalry overran the French artillery. 

The French commanded order La Grande Manoeuvre, and brought forward 3 line infantry and one cavalry unit to halt the victorious British cavalry.

The British cavalry attacked down the slope with the support of the RHA guns, and attacked the French light infantry. This time the French infantry formed square.

Both the cavalry and the light infantry took losses, but the square held firm.

The French general shouted "Follow Me!" and the line infantry advanced to attack the British troops defending the woods.

Encouraged by the General's heroic leadership, the French stormed into the woods, wiping out the British infantry.

Having lost so many troops, Sir Arthur Wellesley called for a general withdrawal leaving the French victorious on the battlefield.

The Outcome 

French Victory:   Anglo-Portuguese 2 - French 5

For the next scenario, the French gain 3 Glory Counters and the Allies gain 1 Glory Counter.

Campaign Result 

  Victories     Banners  
  French       2     16
  Allies       1     12