Sunday, July 9, 2023

Zornoza (31 October 1808)

This scenario is a refight of the Battle of Zornoza (31 October1808) 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 fifth battle using our Peninsular War campaign rules.

The History

The Dos de Mayo Uprising had put Iberia in revolt against French rule and the first French invasion of Spain had ended in failure. The Spanish, without a functioning high command, failed to coordinate an advance by the closest Spanish armies to take advantage of the temporary weakness of the French position behind the Ebro River. French Marshals Bessières, Victor and Ney, knowing that Napoleon was on his way, chose not to act. 

Marshal François Joseph Lefebvre, hungry for glory, observed that Lieutenant General Joaquín Blake y Joyes’s Spanish ‘Army of the Left’ was vulnerable to attack. On October 31st Lefebvre launched a ferocious three-pronged attack on Blake’s army as it was drawn up in front of Zornoza on a range of low hills. 

At first the entire Spanish line retreated to the heights of San Martín, but soon afterward, the Spanish center disintegrated. Blake reacted quickly, and ordered his two wings to retire and cover his center. Blake’s army then retreated in good order. 

Lefebvre’s premature attack at Zornoza, coupled with Blake’s rapid retreat, compromised the northern part of Napoleon’s plan for a grand double envelopment of the Spanish armies. 

The Refight

Not wanting to give the Spanish a chance to escape, the French started the battle with an attack on their right flank. One of the attacking French line infantry regiments opened fire on the Spanish defenders on the hill causing them slight casualties.

With no desire to face the advancing French columns, the Spanish left flank moved rearwards, but in doing so gave up the advantage of the high ground.

The French continued the assault on their right flank. They followed the retreating Spanish and engaged the Spanish infantry in the centre causing losses there.

Because of the French musket fire, the Spanish pulled back 2 regiments in the centre leaving their most advanced regiment to delay the French advance!

The French continued the attack on their right flank, three columns of line infantry reached the high ground and attacked the lone defending regiment of Spanish infantry.

The French attack eliminated the Spanish defenders.

Unable to do anything about the French advancing on his left wing, the Spanish commander ordered his centre to continue to withdraw. Even the light infantry which had been supporting the Spanish left, took the chance and withdrew.

Ignoring the Spanish retreating in the centre, the French commander yet again ordered an attack on his right flank. The three line infantry columns advanced over the plateau and attacked downhill. It was at this moment that the Spanish commander regretted giving up the advantage of the high ground.

The French attack was incredibly successful, both Spanish infantry regiments were eliminated and Brigadier Genaro Figueroa was forced to flee together with his staff.

The Spanish commander ordered the three infantry units on his right flank to withdraw. The would stand no chance against the French infantry opposing them. The light infantry withdrew across the bridge while the two columns of formed infantry started moving back, planning to eventually take up position on the hills to their rear.

Two French infantry columns charged down from the hills, capturing Brigadier Genaro Figueroa and killing most of his staff.

Worried by the French success on their left, the Spanish centre withdrew slowly.

Seeing the Spanish moving rearwards, the French commander ordered his left flank into the attack.

Seeing this, the Spanish continued their rearward movement with their infantry columns.

The French commander then ordered an assault with his centre. Four infantry units and a battery of foot artillery moved forward. One French column attacked the Spanish infantry, left behind when the rest of the Spanish centre withdrew.

The Spanish infantry took a few losses, but then turned tail and fled back to join the rest of the retreating Spanish centre.

The Spanish commander decided the time was ripe and ordered all the infantry in the centre to force march rearwards, with just 3 infantry units covering the withdrawl.

Even the French commander ordered a Forced March on his left flank, but the French infantry was too tired to be able to attack.

The Spanish artillery commander ordered his guns to quickly retire before the advancing horde of Frenchmen.

The French continued to attack on their left flank, with Major General Eugene-Casimir Villatte at their head. Three infantry columns advanced, wiping out one of the defending Spanish infantry regiments. The second Spanish infantry, the grenadiers, were not attacked because the French column had to move via wooded terrain and didn't have time to engage in melee.

General Blake ordered the last three infantry regiments that were covering his retreat in the centre to retire off the field of battle, thus getting a large proportion of his army away to safety and surviving to fight another day.

The only Spanish remaining on the battlefield was Brigadier Gabriel de Mendizábal, a battery of guns and a column of grenadiers. These would soon retire and join up with the rest of their army.

Although with possession of the battlefield, the French had managed something of a tactical victory, the battle was a definite French blunder and a strategic victory for Blake who escaped the French trap and conducted a crafty withdrawal.

The Outcome 

Spanish Victory:   Spanish 6 - French 5

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

Campaign Result 

  Victories     Banners  
  French       3     27
  Allies       2     23

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